The Value of a Real Conversation

by Julie Komenos

These days, we have a whole new vocabulary to describe how we relate to one another: texting, blogging, face booking, tweeting--all done on our smart phones, iPads, or other gadgets. While these new forms and modes of communication help people stay connected, nothing replaces the impact of face-to-face conversation.

Each day when I come to work at Abby's House, I am greeted by the women who live here, who sit in front of the building, talking or relaxing. Our conversation might be a simple exchange of greetings about the weather or something deeper than that, but what matter is that we start each day with real conversation, by making a real connection. When I enter the building and make my way to my office, I look forward to talking with my co-workers face-to-face. It starts my day on a positive note, and provides me with something tangible but incredibly valuable. By connecting face-to-face, we are taking the time and making the investment in one another that we care about how the other person is doing, and in the process, building a community that is based on hospitality and genuine concern for one another.

For 35 years, Abby's House has greeted women and children with warm hospitality, offering services, support and a listening ear to those who turn to us for help. The women who come to our door may have exhausted their resources but they are strong, resourceful and resilient. Some of them may be working, others may be going to school, looking for work, or need additional education or training, but they all need a little help to take that next step. What they need most from us is to be accepted and treated with respect, and to belong, regardless of their past history or what brought them to our door. What they need most is for us to engage in conversation with the m about how they got here and how they can regain their footing on the path to independence.

Technology certainly has its place -- just today, one of our residents got a job that she applied for online. Women who need our help can visit our website and learn more about our services, print a housing application, or locate a phone number for the staff person that can help them. Once they're living with us, they use computers and cell phones to make appointments, do research, look for and apply for jobs, send and receive emails, play games, watch videos, and stay connected with family and friends. All of this helps them realize their goals. Technology also helps Abby's stay in touch with friends and fans -- if you haven't already done so, check out our website, our Facebook page, and/or sign up to receive e-news alerts!

But technology will never replace what's always worked at Abby's. When we greet women at the door and welcome them in, it is the beginning of a relationship. By offering "old-fashioned" hospitality with a smile and a hug, we help the women feel comfortable, understood and cared for; it builds trust and community. Relationships take time, but our commitment to using a personal approach is what has made the difference for the 11,500 women and children who have turned to Abby's for help. By walking with them, side by side, in relationship, we have helped them move on with their lives and regain their independence. Thank you to our founders, board and other volunteers, who help us continue extending the hospitality, warmth and sense of community that is the bed-rock of our success.