Submitted by: Maxine Reddy, Faculty, Sanctuary Institute
Earlier this month I had the honor and pleasure to deliver a keynote speech to the attendees of the Nebraska Association of Homes and Services for Children. For me to have the opportunity to address a room filled with service providers, about the Sanctuary Model and its benefits to organizations, was a dream come true. I have been exposed to the Model for many years and felt excitement as I began to prepare my story. However, my excitement did not transfer quickly or easily onto paper; well, the computer screen. I had so many thoughts that I wanted to be sure to share: the incredible change that I was a part of at Green Chimneys, where we implemented the Model, the transformations I have seen at other organizations that have taken the road to Sanctuary, the wonderful and imaginative people I have come into contact with through my Sanctuary journey, and the truly fun ways I have seen these concepts move from the original five-day training, to the steering committee, the core team, the staff and clients and customers. I am a true believer that if we make things fun, more people will be interested and involved.
As I had once again the privilege of listening to Dr. Sandra Bloom present a session on Trauma Theory, I decided that this concept would be the framework in which I would tell my story. In addition to preparing the didactic component of the speech (of course I was taking copious notes) I started to think about how understanding trauma theory has helped me in my work and with people in general. I decided to focus on the Sanctuary principles of (1) understanding that all human beings have experienced adversity in some way, and (2) changing the question we ask from ‘what’s wrong with you?’ to ‘what happened to you?’.
I shared my personal stories of how I have come to change my lens when interacting with co-workers, customers, friends and strangers; and the wonderful way this changed my relationship with myself. I began to be less critical and demanding of perfection. I also shared a very moving experience with the group about a small village in southeast Alaska called Elfin Cove; population 24 in the summer months (due to the abundant fishing opportunities), 10 in the winter months after all the seasonal members leave. I saw a man on the docks (there are no streets, only docks in this town built on the water’s edge) acting very strangely. I made the determination that he was ‘on something’ and made my way along as quickly as I could. That evening, back with my tour group, this small village and this man was the talk at the dinner table. Then someone, later I found out he was a doctor, offered that this man has Huntington’s disease, a debilitating illness. In that moment of understanding, I thought of this person in terms of what has happened to him, and my experience of what I had witnessed out on the docks completely changed. My fear was replaced with compassion.
So I told my stories and related them to components of trauma theory and felt that I had done Dr. Bloom and my colleagues proud. So, to put a word to my feeling on this day of my first opportunity to deliver a keynote speech, I feel proud of myself and exhilarated to be a part of the Sanctuary Institute.