I was sitting at Cafe Coffee Day (our Indian equivalent to Starbucks), huddled around a table in Bangalore with all the Ruhamah workshop managers, social workers, and directors from three different workshops. Steaming cappuccinos and freezing Eskimo iced coffees put us all in excellent moods. We left the quiet of the Catholic retreat center in search of an internet connection (we can never stay away from it for long!). I am able to pick up wifi, and my smartphone goes to work, researching next year's color schemes from Pantone (the independent color/fashion guide for the world).
As I passed around my phone so everyone could catch a glimpse of next year's colors; the team spontaneously cheered. Next year's colors? I read the description to shed some light on why certain colors are chosen for certain years. It read, “many feel compelled to be connected [to technology] around the clock because we are afraid we’ll miss something important. There is a growing movement to step out and create ‘quiet zones’ to disconnect from technology and unwind, giving ourselves time to stop and be still. Color choices follow the same minimalistic, ‘en plein air’ theme, taking a cue from nature rather than being reinvented or mechanically manipulated. Soft, cool hues blend with subtle warm tones to create a soothing escape from the everyday hustle and bustle.”- Leatrice Eiseman
There is a corporate chuckle as I read the psychology behind the color choices, and our Ruhamah staff nod their agreement to its philosophy. While the world at large needs quiet white space from the flurry and drive, and temptations and demands of technology, the color choices also signal a more specific reminder to all of us in Ruhamah Designs. We social workers, managers, and directors need the physical reminder of color to occasionally retreat from the agony and pathos of our girls and to breath deeply and recalibrate.
Ruhamah Designs isn't just a business. It's so much more. Our employees aren't the usual segment of the population with the average set of hang-ups and issues that we all face. Our girls exhibit brokenness that defies mending, insecurities that play like shadows on their faces at work, fears that paralyze as they strive to meet quotas, disproportionate rage that bubbles to the surface during ordinary interactions with supervisors and co-workers, and unchecked tears that course down their cheeks as they hammer out earrings. They each have personal stories that we can only imagine; each carries pain we can never fully understand.
In Ruhamah, we see a range of emotions that mirror our own but are a thousand times stronger, a thousand times more intense. Sometimes the play of emotion is ferocious, sometimes debilitating and always it is exhausting, for the girl, and for those around her.
So, here we all were, stepping back from the dramas at our workshops, and making time in our hectic schedules for rest at a Catholic retreat center.
We needed to share stories of the girls we serve, process the pain of the lives we encounter every day, and brainstorm solutions to the complex issues we face at the workplace. We needed to share our moments of baffling hopelessness in the face of the girls' anguish, the unheeded counsel, the warnings of destructive behavior, and the patterns of self-destruction that we saw, but could not stop.
We needed to step back and problem solve together, not as isolated, independent bodies spread apart by thousands of miles, but together, as one united group of people who pray, long for, and place our hope in one great dream: our girls' wholeness.
We needed to breathe deeply and remember afresh how to care for ourselves, our bodies, minds, and souls.
We gave ourselves time to connect with each other and our Creator. We gave ourselves the chance to have fun, to shop in the wonderful city of Bangalore. We purchased sarees and fancy salwars, block printed fabric, and special sweets to take back home. We dreamed about the future of Ruhamah over cups of really good coffee.
It was a short week together, but long enough to reaffirm that our strength comes from our Creator and Sustainer, and long enough to revel and refuel in His love. We retreated from the press of this world for a short while, both for ourselves and for the girls we serve, so that what we have already given is once again replenished. The oil that never runs dry. Color that stays vibrant and points to life, love, and energy.