by Stephanie Williams
This past Christmas, I was waiting with my husband at our departure gate in the airport on our way to visiting my family for the holidays. The quiet man next to me turned and suddenly told me that we made a lovely couple and reminded him of his son. While striking up a conversation, I soon learned that his son had recently passed away in an accident, leaving behind a wife and two children. The gentleman at the airport spoke slowly and solemnly about dealing with death’s aftermath regarding his son’s business affairs and the strained personal relations between grieving family members who could no longer relate to each other. His story was honest and raw and poured out of him unprovoked. While I listened and gently asked questions, the moment felt like the culmination of the training that I’ve received as a Healing Heart Ambassador at The Christi Center.
I was not drawn to work for The Christi Center because of a personal experience with loss. Instead, I recognized my own discomfort and inability to find the right words to say as I interacted with friends and family members who were grieving. “Safe” sentiments commonly seemed pithy and disingenuous, but I didn’t want to delve too personal for fear of upsetting them. Consequently, I never knew the right thing to say and sometimes said nothing at all.
Recognizing this helplessness, I was drawn to volunteer at The Christi Center. As a member of the Junior League of Austin, I select a placement each year from a list of community agencies to commit to volunteer for one year. By volunteering for different community agencies in Austin, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the social and economic impact non-profits can make in our local community. Volunteering in this capacity has given me a great opportunity to learn about some of the smaller non-profits in Austin and see the influences individuals can make for a defined purpose.
I’ve greatly enjoyed the past year working with the wonderful staff at The Christi Center and feel that I’ve received considerable grief and counseling training. This year has empowered me to feel equipped to be open and responsive to my loved ones when they encounter loss and also to be prepared to recommend the services of The Christi Center to those I encounter who could benefit.
I don’t know why the grieving man at the airport felt compelled to share his story with me. I hope that I presented a warm and considerate confidence and I’m glad he felt he could trust me. I was able to share the mission and purpose of The Christi Center with him and I hope his family will attend group sessions. In that moment, I truly felt like a healing heart ambassador and that I was successfully fulfilling the partnership between The Christi Center and the JLA.
About the Author
Stephanie Williams has been a member of the Junior League of Austin since 2011 and has volunteered as a Healing Heart Ambassador at The Christi Center for the past year. She has lived in Austin for eight years with her husband Ryan.