Resilience: Recovering from the traumas that touch us all

September 17, 2019

Last fall, local counselor and Charlotte Observer contributor Justin Perry came to our church to speak on educational equality in Charlotte as part of our Color and Character book study.  After his presentation, I asked him what he thought was the most important thing we could do to support Westerly Hills Academy. He said, “Watch Resilience.”

We can do what Justin Perry suggested on Sunday, September 22, beginning at 5 p.m. in Wood Fellowship Hall, when we’ll have a free viewing of Resilience. This documentary is about how trauma impacts both our mental and physical health, and how we gain the resilience needed to recover from the trauma.

What, exactly, is trauma? In a brochure from Presbyterian Psychological Services, various experiences that qualify as “trauma” include:

  • Abuse/neglect
  • Incarceration
  • Mental illness or substance abuse in the family
  • Divorce
  • Witnessing domestic violence or a violent crime

My heart sank when I read this list. Here is what those experiences look like in the lives of people I’ve encountered recently through my work here at First Presbyterian:

  • A church member told me that dad was being released from prison soon, and asked for prayers, as they were nervous about the transition.
  • A BELL scholar whispered to me that her family was moving because there were “too many bullets” in their neighborhood.
  • Another BELL scholar was late because a man showed up at their house the night before with a gun.
  • A nine-year-old I’ve tutored was dropped off at his dad’s house by his mother, who said, “I’m done with him” and never returned.
  • Many young scholars and students I’ve tutored that have brothers and sisters who have died.

There are experiences on this list that many of us will never have to deal with. But there are plenty that we do experience, despite our “privileged” status:  substance abuse, mental illness, physical and emotional abuse, divorce. When it comes to traumatic experiences, Father Gregory Boyle’s words come to mind: “There is no us and them.  There is only us.”

Marc Dickmann, who is currently the Director of Education for Freedom Communities and has been a longtime west Charlotte advocate, told me recently that  he thought the biggest need in west Charlotte was “trauma support.”

Watching Resilience together on Sunday evening is a great place to begin understanding this piece of the equation called trauma and how we can care for one another, for our community and ourselves.

– Heather Herring, Child & Family Partnership Coordinator

Details: Sign up here for the free documentary, accompanied by a light meal, on Sunday, September 22, 5 p.m. The movie is suitable for middle school youth through adults. An elementary program, Identifying Emotions, will be offered concurrently. Preschool care will be provided at no cost but registration is required. We will also have the opportunity following the film to be part of small group conversations led by experts in outreach and advocacy, understanding stress, mindfulness and meditation and movement as a stress buster.