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You are here: Home >> Blog >> Marie Fortune's Blogs >> GUEST BLOG: "My Little Pony Snowsuit" {16 Days of Activism: Stories That Inspire Our Work}

GUEST BLOG: "My Little Pony Snowsuit" {16 Days of Activism: Stories That Inspire Our Work}

Nov 30, 2015

She was proud of her pink My Little Pony snowsuit and she needed to go to the bathroom. That was my introduction to Mimi, a preschool-aged girl in the gym of a local church drop-in center. She was there with her Dad and 2nd grade brother, Lemar, as they waited to be transported to an emergency shelter that operated on bitter cold nights.

She was proud of her pink My Little Pony snowsuit and she needed to go to the bathroom.  That was my introduction to Mimi, a preschool-aged girl in the gym of a local church drop-in center.  She was there with her Dad and 2nd grade brother, Lemar, as they waited to be transported to an emergency shelter that operated on bitter cold nights.

For the past four years I have joined with a group of St. Louisans who volunteer with St. Louis Winter Outreach, an all-volunteer group committed to finding shelter for the housing-vulnerable and homeless when the thermometer dips below 20 degrees F. On this night I was organizing the shuttle teams that would fill their cars with women, men, and children who had been outside much of the day. Mimi, Lemar and their Dad were on the list to be transported to the temporary shelter at St. Teresa and Bridget's Catholic church where they would be greeted by caring volunteers, a warm meal and cots for the night. They had stayed in several of the other shelters in the past two weeks and Dad had heard this one was particularly good for kids. That was not true in some of the other shelters.

"I need to go to the bathroom!"  This time it was more of a demand than a request, and Mimi was looking at me.  With a head nod from Dad, Mimi and I walked hand-in-hand to the bathroom, where Mimi gleefully told me about the ponies on her stained snowsuit and the snow angel she made while her family waited for the doors to open at the Center. Working to get her free from her snowsuit, I asked Mimi how old she was. She did not know, but she was proud to tell me that Lemar was older than she was, that sometimes he went to school, and when he did they gave him breakfast.

We finished up and headed back to Dad who was scolding Lemar for wandering too far away from him. Skipping up to her dad, Mimi chimed, "Daddy, how old am I?" In an instant, Dad's face went from tired to crest fallen. "Ah, damn.  You are four and today is your birthday. I didn't remember. Baby, I didn't get you anything." Mimi didn't seem shaken by the news as she skipped away. For Dad, this was just one more way that their loss of housing devastated his ability to be a productive parent.

In my "day job" I teach, research, and engage in activism with survivors of gender-based violence.  The issues of systemic injustice that fuel gender-based violence are tightly wed to the reasons that families like Mimi's are forced out of their homes and into shelters.

Later in the evening, after we had transported Mimi, Lemar and their Dad to the shelter, my spouse and I drove to the only store near the shelter and bought a stuffed animal for Mimi and a toy truck for Lemar. We drove back to the shelter and, pulling Dad aside, gave him the toys. That night three folks were delighted: Mimi with her birthday present, Lemar with his bonus gift, and Dad with his chance to feel like a good Dad.

 

Swirl

Rev. Dr. Kristen Leslie is Professor of Pastoral Theology and Care at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO. She is an ordained United Methodist minister and the author of When Violence is No Stranger: Pastoral Counseling with Survivors of Acquaintance Rape (Fortress Press, 2003).

Her 28 years of pastoral ministry has included serving as an associate pastor, a college chaplain, a pastoral counselor, a rape crisis counselor, and a professor of pastoral counseling at Yale University Divinity School.  Since 2010 she has been on the faculty of Eden Theological Seminary.  From 2003-2005 Dr. Leslie served as a consultant to the Chaplains at the United States Air Force Academy as they worked to provide appropriate care to survivors of sexualized violence. In July of 2013 Dr. Leslie and Dr. Marie Fortune were hired by the Navy to train Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard chaplains on providing pastoral care in situations involving military sexual assault.

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