Part of me dreaded writing this column. It is too familiar, almost redundant, of the eight columns that have come each October since 2005.
As many of you know, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so it is not surprising that each October’s “Healthy Relationships” column since 2005 has focused on the most unhealthy of relationships, those where violence is the norm.
As I looked back on that very first column, I was reminded that it was about Amy Homan McGee, murdered by her husband. There have been other names, other murders that have focused the community’s attention, at least for a while, on the reality of domestic violence. And every October, those of us who do this work in Centre County try to refocus the community’s attention, to remind all of us that although we have made progress, we still have a very long way to go before every person is safe in her or his own home.
So, it struck me as somewhat ironic that I was invited to be the honorary grand marshal of Penn State’s 2013 Homecoming when so much of my work and that of the CCWRC is about making homes safe. I was truly honored that the committee chose me, but more importantly, chose to recognize the work of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center.
For more than 30 years, the board, staff and volunteers of the CCWRC have worked to make Centre County homes safer for those who live inside them. We’ve worked to help the community understand the dynamics of domestic violence, to find new and creative ways to respond and prevent it. And the visibility of being the honorary grand marshal is one more opportunity to highlight that work.
Early Saturday morning, I spoke to almost 300 students headed out to volunteer for Homecoming’s Day of Service. A group of them were armed with posters and information about Domestic Violence Awareness Month and CCWRC services to distribute in Downtown State College.
The students who distributed information about CCWRC services will never know who might have read the posters and recognized the signs of an abusive relationship, or who might have picked up a palm card and discovered that help was available and how to access it.
But they embodied the spirit of service that should be the core of Homecoming — and the spirit of commitment to changing a community for the better while holding on to what has value.
The theme of 2013 Homecoming is Generations Evolve; Traditions Remain, and as I interacted with those students on Saturday and with the more than 50 students who volunteered for the CCWRC Steps to Safety 5K on Sunday, I realized that most of them were tiny children when I wrote that first column in 2005.
But, in part because they are here, they are engaged, and they are committed to working for a world and a community without violence, I am hopeful that someday, we will eliminate domestic violence and make this a safe community for all those generations that follow.
Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.”
So we continue, working toward healthy relationships, working toward safety, working toward home.
Anne K. Ard is the executive director of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, 140 W. Nittany Ave., State College. Contact her at 238-7066 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.