Dare to care

George Johnston

I have a few minutes before I meet with Karen Johns at Dare Formal wear in the suburb of Strathpine, just north of Brisbane. Dare is a not-for-profit that provides support, education and awareness for women and children caught up by domestic violence. The shop is quiet and the change rooms lie open and empty. The purple walls have words like believe,dream,love,and dream big painted on them. Small fairy lights soften the atmosphere. This shop is clearly no sterile supermarket chain. I have a strong sense that even before I meet with Karen I may have seen her character partially written on the walls of this place.

When she arrives it is immediately obvious that she has done this before. She talks about her life in an open and honest way getting straight to the point. There are a lot of points to make, too many to list in this short piece.

Born in the mid sixties to a sixteen year old mother and eighteen year old father, sexually abused from the age of six she endured various forms of abuse from different people over extended periods of time. As a child she never knew what the night would bring. I wonder what it would be like to live like that. My guess is that it would make you dream small, longing for the basic safe environment that many of us take for granted.

With such a tough background it is not surprising that her  relationships were rocky. She has had four children to three fathers no doubt hoping each time that things would work out. She is a qualified teacher and has been in Pastoral roles in various churches. With the exception of a period where she turned to atheism she has always had a Christian faith. A big part of faith is believing that a better life is possible in the face of a world that is full of hurt people intent on hurting other people.

But believing something can be better by itself is only one step in the journey of making things better. The journey to finding your purpose, finding how you can make things better is a long, convoluted process. I confess that there were so many people referenced by Karen when she spoke that it was difficult to keep track of it all. This is not a flaw in her communication skill but more simple evidence of how we learn from a vast tribe of people who touch our lives in some way.

Dare Formal Wear grew from what Karen calls 'the need to look after our own'. While 'our own,' initially represented people connected with churches it is really just anyone anywhere that needs to be kept safe from domestic violence.

When we finish chatting my mind drifts back to the first impressions I had when I sat waiting to meet Karen. I saw wedding dresses hanging before sets of mirrors waiting for people to try them on. Despite all the terrible things that can happen in some relationships people still dare to dream of something better.

Karen is driven by her faith, love and experience to give vulnerable people what they need by way of education and basic resources to stay safe and make good relational choices. That way hopefully with their eyes open to harsh realities they can find their safe place. A safe place where the night is a place to dream and the day is a place to live.

As I see it Karen invites you to Dare to care not just by giving what you want to give but by understanding what people actually need.

04 March, 2023

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