One of my professors has a cynical view of love and healing, as if the power of love for emotional renewal is magical thinking. I thoroughly disagree. Love is the very best medicine we have. Some of us need manufactured drugs, and I take a fistful of vitamin supplements in the morning along with a little squirt B12 on my tongue. In the evening, I take three lithium tablets as a final act. This Is my regimen for managing bipolar disorder along with walking and meditation, but I am confident I couldn’t survive without love. My husband, children and friends dip their paint brushes in love and touch me up all the time.
I am wholly in love with a company called Thistle Farms. Their motto is Love Heals Every Body. If you shared a meal with the women who work there, you know it’s true. Thistle Farms employs graduates of Magdalene, a two-year recovery program in Nashville for women who lived lives of prostitution, drug addiction and abuse. Their goal is to heal, empower and employ the women they serve.
At Whole Foods one Saturday morning, my husband Mark and I introduced ourselves to Cynthia and Jordan, who were doing Thistle Farms’ product demonstrations. Scents of scrubs, lotions and candles filled the air at the end of aisle six. On an impulse, I asked them over for dinner. Cynthia took my cell number, Mark and I bought extra food, and I wished and hoped they would join us. They did! It was such a gift.
Cynthia, Jordan, Gayle and Shana arrived with dessert. It was an instant love fest (for me anyway.) During dinner each woman shared her life story with complete candor and no shame. I listened to them prop each other up with kind words and attention. It was inspiring. These women were at ease in the way you imagine people are when they forgive, accept and love themselves.
Their stories were extraordinary. Gayle is a soft-spoken senior citizen who spent 26 years in prison, 10 on death row. She killed a husband who beat her regularly. She looks like an unassuming suburban grandmother. Now she is the head of manufacturing and a mother to the other women at the table. Cynthia and Shana were prostitutes. Their individual stories of physical abuse and losing children are heartbreaking. Cynthia is a beautiful woman with a magnetic smile. She works in sales at Thistle Farms where her warm and engaging personality shines. Shana, who is a dynamo, also works in sales. Jordan, shy and sweet, works in production.
Gayle invited me to a class in Nashville. They all offered to come back and speak to the girls at my daughter’s school. These women are about growing, giving, and gratitude. They know that love heals, and I love who they are in the world. We were so fortunate to meet Gayle, Cynthia, Shana and Jordan. The simple meal was a gift for us and an object lesson for practicing healing. Thanksgiving at Thistle Farms must be amazing.
I just bought three scented candles for the holidays from Thistle Farms. Now I regret ordering them online. When you call the women of Magdelene, you feel the love flow through the phone. I’m going to have to call for more.