Village Voice - December, 2005


We’ve all grown up with the Christmas story of how Joseph and Mary had nowhere to stay when it came time for Mary to give birth.  At a very vulnerable time in her life, Mary had to depend on the protection and ability of Joseph. Eventually a shelter was found for them out of the elements and the rest, as they say, is history.

While this took place over two thousand years ago, similar stories happen every day in our own community.  Here is one of them. 

A DC mom in Northeast found herself pregnant with her second child in January. 

During her first pregnancy five years ago, her husband physically abused her.  A few weeks after their son was born, he kicked her out of the house and kept the baby.  As happens with many domestic violence situations, she eventually moved back in with him to be with her baby. 

Early this summer, she found herself kicked out on the streets once again. Since her husband was “only” verbally abusive at this time, she did not fit the criteria for domestic violence shelters. There was no stable to rescue her, no protective husband to advocate, find shelter for her and protect her.

So Tammy* (not her real name) walked in the door of the Healthy Babies Project seeking comfort, support and a shoulder to lean on.  One of the counselors began working with her to help with her depression.  The community health nurse helped her call transitional housing resources from the list Tammy printed out at the library’s computer.

Everywhere she called, the answer was the same: “Sorry, we have no room available.”  Some took only teen mothers.  Others took only substance-abusing women, or she could only sleep there at night.  She was informed by the DC Housing Authority that she needn’t apply for emergency housing until places had been found for the Hurricane Katrina victims that had been relocated to this area. 

Desperate in her advancing pregnancy, and with nowhere else to go, she moved back in with her husband. 

Healthy Babies staff provided her with the baby supplies and clothes her husband refused to get for her.  The nurse provided her with health education, children’s books to read to her baby and constant emotional support. 

In October, Tammy delivered a full term healthy baby boy.  Over the last few months of her pregnancy, Tammy’s husband began listening to his family about his responsibilities as a husband and father.  He is struggling with trying to do the right thing for Tammy and their two sons.

This is no modern-day Joseph and Mary, but it is a modern-day story of birth, struggle and vulnerability in a family close to home.  It is also a modern-day story of how we, as a church family, can be the star in the sky shedding light where there is darkness and hope where there is despair. We can be the angels that announce the great mystery of Christ’s birth through our prayers, concern and sharing of our own bounty. 

There are many more like Tammy searching for room in the inn, a light in the dark. Remember them as you prepare for the blessing of Christmas.                                             

                                                                                                                        --Mary Brewster

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