The Hear Foundation’s Summer of Healing included support of Healing Rivers workshops led by the Center for Victims in Pittsburgh. The workshops are training community leaders in the science and impact of trauma and provide tools and strategies to build wellbeing and resilience. Both police and clergy helped to organize and participate in several of the sessions held to date, with additional sessions planned in the coming months.
Rabbi Ron Symons, Senior Director of Jewish Life and Director, Center for Loving Kindness at the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh, participated in the workshop and shares his perspective on the experience.
The Healing Rivers Project at the Center for Victims offers members of the community an opportunity to uncover the impact of trauma on each one of us as it impacts our brains, our bodies, and our emotions. Bringing together police officers and spiritual leaders offered us the opportunity to also explore the impact of trauma on our spirits.
All of us experience trauma in our lives. Trauma happens when the circumstances around us overwhelm us with the resources that we have on hand. It doesn’t take a great imagination to know that police officers experience trauma on a daily basis.
Equally, we have an appreciation that spiritual leaders experience trauma regularly. By putting police officers and spiritual leaders in a safe space to reflect on the traumas that have impacted their lives, we create a shared sense of humanity around who we are in relationship with one another, and what we can do to strengthen the fabric of community.
The success of the program is measured both in the quality of the conversation and reflections that we have in the space itself, and then also long after the program has come to an end. Sometimes that’s just about an individual perspective on trauma. At other times, it’s about a clergy person, as a spiritual leader, understanding how valuable the experience was that they decide to bring two dozen of their youth workers into the space so that they can learn about trauma.
At its core, going through Healing Rivers helps us to understand what clothing we need to wear for the weather. Having explored trauma, we now know that when it rains, you have to have a raincoat. We know that when it snows, you have to have snow boots. We now know that you can’t just assume you can get through this, but because of our shared experience, we have a few more clothes in the closet to help us when the weather turns bad.
The beauty of the Healing Rivers project is that it is both an interactive museum experience and a conversation starter at the same time. As we walked from exhibit to exhibit, we gained understanding of how it is that intergenerational trauma impacts us today, and how trauma impacts our physical bodies and our emotional health.
There were times when police officers and spiritual leaders were able to reflect on similar experiences. What is it like for a police offer to enter a violent circumstance, knowing their job is to serve and protect? What is it like for a spiritual leader to enter that same circumstance, knowing it is their job is to nurture and support? Both those entrances have opportunity to be traumatic. By talking about them in a safe space, we’re giving each other the tools to deal with the challenges of life, and of community.