As the streets of Nashville become lined with a fresh batch of deep purple thistles, it is only fitting that May is the month the Thistle Farms community celebrates graduation. This year, nine incredible women graduate from Thistle Farms’ two-year residential program, Magdalene. These extraordinary survivor leaders—Brenda, Donna, Mary, Jovita, Lynnita, Linda, Nancy, Lori, and Ronda—show us each day the ways that love heals.
When our nine graduates first came to the residential program, they received a key to their new home. This was a home for which they were not required to pay rent. It was a home where they could find refuge, a home equipped with sisters and love, a home that was beautifully furnished and well kept—it was the home that each woman deserved. When asked what receiving this key meant, Donna recalled, “At first, I was afraid of what would happen; I thought, how could this work? Then, after I slowed down, found self-respect, gratitude, humbleness, and purpose, my key meant freedom.” For Brenda, the key meant a sense of connection after being disconnected for so many years. Mary remembered, “I was just so happy to have a place to lay my head—my own bed, a kitchen to cook meals, and a place to take a bath.”
Over the next two years all nine women would begin new jobs and learn not only skills for employment, but also that they each have immeasurable gifts. This group of graduates includes artisans, service specialists, saleswomen, healers, organizers, and creators. When Mary says, “I’ve learned that I can be a responsible, productive member of society,” the truth is that society is made better because of Mary and her fellow graduates.
The 2016 graduating class has grown to love the homes that they entered with their new keys two years ago. Reflecting on her time in the program, Donna says, “Over the past two years, I’ve embraced love—unconditional love and sisterhood – it feels good. I wake up in the morning happy because caring for someone else feels good, it really does. The love here pours out strong. I’ve learned that I am one of a kind; I’m unique. I deserve love and kindness. I just deserve today.”
These nine inspiring women do deserve, and as they move into new jobs, find new apartments, gain driver’s licenses, reunite with their children, and move into their next phases of leadership, they remember the keys that started it all.