Our children, ages 10 and 7, have spent most of their childhood volunteering with my wife and me at The Next Door (TND), a Nashville-based ministry for women in crisis.
Nothing is guaranteed, but TND has demonstrated repeatedly that it can "equip women in crisis to develop lives of wholeness and hope," Vaughn writes. (Photo: Cliff Vaughn)
TND began in 2003 as an outgrowth of First Baptist Church in downtown Nashville, as a way to help women emerging from incarceration.
More than 10 years later, it stands as a model organization – for reducing recidivism, combining spiritual care with evidence-based practices and loving people.
Prior to shooting in and around TND for EthicsDaily.com's latest documentary, "Through the Door," my exposure to the organization had been mostly through cooking and serving meals at the facility once a month.
My wife, a TND board member, does the heavy lifting. I'm definitely the sous chef. But the years have brought observations about the women.
No. 1: Gratitude abounds.
The women are always generous with their praise and thankfulness. Whether for the food or the behavior of our children(!), the women share their gratitude liberally, earnestly, consistently.
No. 2: Honesty rules.
Some days are tougher than others, and the truth needs to be shared. Some issues weigh heavily, and the weight of those burdens is evident. The honesty is a reminder that life isn't tidy, even when we pretend it is.
No. 3: Resilience impresses.
Life's messiness met its match in these women, whose resilience impresses me without exception. I'm forced to acknowledge my own weakness, then take heart from their courage amid some major obstacles I never encountered.
No. 4: Community matters.
The women aren't alone. They've got each other – and a proven, professional staff. This community is tangible and, it appears, necessary.
No. 5: Process works.
Nothing is guaranteed, but TND has demonstrated repeatedly that it can "equip women in crisis to develop lives of wholeness and hope." As an outsider looking in at this process, the combination of prayer, hard work, professional knowledge, support and more seems to make a difference. Imagine that.
When I contemplate TND, I don't see people sitting around with their fingers crossed, betting on a chance of success that was outside all along because it ignored the truth.
Rather, I see grateful, honest, resilient, communal and process-oriented women – in both clients and staff – who work hard each day to let the light shine.
Cliff Vaughn is media producer for EthicsDaily.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cliff_vaughn.
Editor's note: "Through the Door" – EthicsDaily.com's newly released documentary on faith and prisons – explores the initiatives of churches and faith-based organizations in Indiana, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Interviewees speak to the issues of prescription drug abuse, addiction, mental health, the role of religious volunteers and chaplains, and the often-overlooked stresses of prison officials.