by Katharina Neusiedler, 2011 Women’s Center Volunteer
I was drawn to GLIDE , probably like many people, by the soulful music. I used to sing in a choir years ago back home in Austria and was in search for a musical home in San Francisco. As I sat at Celebration, Sunday after Sunday, trying to muster the courage to audition, I also listened to the message that came from the pastors about unconditional love, radical inclusiveness and recovery. The sentence “we are all in recovery from something” struck a chord inside me and I realized that by coming to GLIDE and internalizing this message of total acceptance I began to heal from deep-seated shame.
Time came for me to finish up my sociology degree and I was looking for a place to learn some job skills and to figure out which direction I wanted to go after I graduated. I also wanted to give back to GLIDE for what it had already given me, so I went to a volunteer orientation. I had already heard about the Women’s Center at Celebration and I knew that this was where I wanted to contribute.
I can now say in hindsight that my time at the Women’s Center was the most significant time in the four years I spent in San Francisco and one of the most important experiences of my life. I met the leaders of the program, Zwazzi and Talilah, for my initial interview and sat in at each of the three recovery groups they were offering at the time. I then made a commitment to co-facilitate one group per week. From day one I felt a deep connection to the women who came through the doors of the Women’s Center, and I realized that despite our differences in national, socio-economic, and cultural backgrounds, I had a lot in common with them.
I soon started coming in twice a week, and at the end of my nine months there I was facilitating groups three mornings a week and helping out with special events held for the women. For the time and effort I put in, I got plenty in return. I learned that the Women’s Center really practices GLIDE’s message of unconditional love. Never before had I experienced a place–let alone a workplace–where I was encouraged to voice my real thoughts and feelings! And from the way Zwazzi and Talilah interacted with the women, with me, and with each other I learned about listening, respect, and trust.
I had to go back to Austria after nine months at the Women’s Center and saying goodbye was tough, but I know that I want to keep working with women. And, you can take a girl out of the Women’s Center, but you can’t take the Women’s Center out of the girl.
P.S. I did muster up the courage to join the choir after announcing it to the women several times.