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  • Cheryl Behrent & Natalie Nemes

A Chance Meeting on a Bus Changes a Life

This story is the first in what will be a series recounting the oral histories of Sarah’s that have been passed down through the years. Each of these stories have been preserved in the home’s collective memory over time because we believe they demonstrate the tradition, mission, and vision of Sarah’s. We are excited to publicly share these anecdotes with all of you, and we hope you will enjoy learning more about the history of Sarah’s.

This particular story is about a woman who came to Sarah’s through a chance encounter, discovering Sarah’s through a complete stranger. Although Sarah’s now only accepts residents through referrals, it is indicative of the generous spirit and welcoming community that lives on in our program today, as well as the dedication everyone at Sarah’s has to helping those in need. To protect the privacy and safety of the women in this story, we will use pseudonyms.

Emilia sat on the bus, watching as people climbed off at the latest stop, heading to their jobs and their homes and their lives. She waited patiently for a new influx of passengers to board, wondering about her fellow travelers. All of them seemed to have a clear destination in mind—they boarded the bus at point A to get to point B, and the bus ride in between was simply a means to an end.

But for Emilia, this bus was the end of the line, and there was no clear path left to follow. She had been riding the bus for hours, watching the city pass by in a blur. Emilia replayed in her mind all that she had been through, going over the many challenges and traumatic experiences that she had endured.

As the last of the new passengers boarded, Emilia looked around at the sea of unfamiliar faces. Her eyes landed on another woman who had just sat down a few rows ahead of her. She seemed to radiate a sense of calm and understanding, and she had a warm smile and eyes that held a lifetime of struggle. Strangely, she looked a lot like Emilia—not in terms of physical appearance, but in the way she held herself. But there was also something else about the woman that drew Emilia to her—the sense of healing in her presence.

As the bus drove on, turning down busy streets and passing building after building, Emilia’s curiosity got the better of her. She stood up from her seat, moving past the other passengers down the aisle until she was standing next to the mysterious woman.

“Excuse me,” Emilia began hesitantly. “I need help. I … I don’t know where to go.”

The woman looked up at Emilia, and there was something bittersweet in her eyes. There was sadness, yes, but also hope. The woman smiled warmly and patted the seat next to her, inviting Emilia to sit down. Somehow, she seemed to understand immediately that Emilia needed more than directions or a map. “You’re not alone,” she said kindly. “We all go through times in our lives when we feel lost. My name is Robina. What’s yours?

“Emilia,” she whispered, but with determination in her voice.

“Emilia,” the woman repeated, smiling again and taking her hand. “You need a home, don’t you?” Emilia nodded, sensing that this woman had once also desperately needed a safe place to stay. “Let me tell you about this place called Sarah’s … an Oasis for Women.”

And so Robina explained what Sarah’s is: a home for women that allows them to heal and recover from significant trauma amid a supportive community. “It’s a place where women go to rebuild their lives,” Robina continued. “I found myself again there. Maybe you can, too.”

Emilia squeezed Robina’s hand, tears brimming in her eyes. Her journey finally had a destination. “Where can I find this place?” she asked, staring up at Robina with hope in her expression.

Robina smiled. “You’re closer than you think,” she replied. “Get off the bus at the next stop, and then go down the sidewalk a little bit farther. You’ll find Sarah’s hidden among the trees.”

The two women hugged, and in their embrace was solidarity, strength, and gratitude. “Thank you,” Emilia whispered as the bus came to a stop. She slowly stood up from her seat, clasping Robina’s hands once more between her own as she left. The last off the bus, she strode down the aisle with her head high, determination in her every step. Following the path Robina described, she finally found it—her new home.

Sarah’s, Emilia found, was a humble yet inviting place that nurtured her as she healed. As days turned into weeks and weeks into months, Emilia found herself growing stronger and more centered. She began to rediscover her passions and talents, and with the support of Sarah’s community, she embarked on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth.

Over time, Emilia became one of the pillars of Sarah’s, helping newcomers find

their way and offering guidance from her own experiences. She never forgot the chance encounter with Robina on that bus, and she saw it as a turning point in her life. Deep down, Emilia knew that Sarah’s had been her destination all along, waiting for her to find her way back home.

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