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Blog: Impulse to the sacred

Impulse to the sacred.


Ronnie Koehn, PhD

Associate Director

As we head into April and Child Abuse Prevention Month, it is fitting to reflect on the mission of Casa de Esperanza:  Casa de Esperanza de los Niños strives to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect for at-risk infants, children and their families by providing comprehensive residential and family support programs that transform people and communities.  Our vision is that every child deserves a home that provides safety, health, permanence and hope. 

What would you do if you saw a child about to run into a busy street?  What would you do if you saw a toddler reaching for a pan of boiling water, or noticed that a child’s leg was bleeding badly as they are struggling to get up from a very hard fall?

The answer to all these questions is the same:  you would immediately secure the child’s safety.   The only reason a child comes to Casa de Esperanza is because they are not safe, which testifies that the foundation of Casa de Esperanza’s existence is based on our ability to keep children and families safe.  The language we use to show this core value is to describe ourselves as a “crisis shelter,” but our homes and offices have, over the years, also become sanctuaries for children and families finding themselves in harm’s way, hungry, sick, or have no safe place to belong. 

The reality that all forms are life are forfeit without certain margins of safety suggests that our shared awareness of the need for safety is inherent and a deep part of our being.  Subsequently our urge to provide safety can be so dominant that our actions toward that goal can often feel reflexive, that is, without the need for thinking, on impulse.  

I would argue that it is society’s responsibility to keep our children safe.  Do human beings have an impulse toward the sacred?  Sacred can mean that which is deserving of veneration or respect and implies great dignity and wisdom and in many cultures is associated with all that is holy. An impulse can be a sudden, strong urge or desire to act, often without need of reflection. 

Sacred texts from divergent cultural groups share our belief that our goal of providing safety is venerable: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me.. .” (Bible);  “…to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover him…” (Prophet Isaiah);  “My children, whenever you give sustenance to the poor, I impute it to you as though you gave sustenance to Me.” (Talmud).

Uniting these ancient, multi-cultural texts held by many as sacred, is our universally shared human drive to provide safety. Expanding ourselves to provide sanctuary is to change who we are into something bigger than our individual selves. As a group, the people who have graced our doors over these decades come together and form the relationships necessary to create the courage and hope that is fatally missing from those we serve. 

Casa de Esperanza is a 501(C)3, non-denominational, non-political charity.  We do not ascribe to any particular teachings or faith.  And yet, we cannot help but feel that the work we do, our coming together to provide safety and nurturance is sacred in every sense of that word.  The acts of feeding the hungry, sheltering those with no safe place to belong, providing medical care to the sick, maybe especially in times of great fear and despair, unite us.