On Monday night, April 26, 2021, 14 Edenton Lions gathered. Absentees missed a treat: Elizabeth Thomas, outreach coordinator for Albemarle Hopeline.

A native of Chicago, Thomas earned her undergraduate degree in psychology at Illinois State University. In 2007, she obtained her master’s in community counseling from Regent University. She worked as children’s counselor at Hopeline from 2007-2011. She left and then returned in 2019 as outreach coordinator.

All of this to tell readers something of the preparation required to do Hopeline work well. More involved than just anger management or a kind, but unexpected, smile at the right moment.

Whether a crisis arises from ordinary family turbulence or an addiction previously unknown, therapeutic counseling is an essential but sometimes elusive skill to master and retain.

Verbal abuse or teenage rage can erupt into a world of hurt. “You don’t love me anymore. And you never have ...” Shallow mistrust can morph into deep, visceral accusations previously unimagined. Harsh words linger. Two weeks later, they are still remembered. What wretched things we do to each other!

Lions did not fidget as Thomas continued. Victims often know their perpetrators well. They frequently return to the very spot where bad things happened. Why victims do not flee to safety far from “the scene of the crime” is a puzzle to me. A fine grandmother once said, “A woman will do for love what she will never do for money.” Is that why “returning to the scene of the crime” happens?

Thomas spoke of the various services such as safe shelter offered through Hopeline. She wants folks in all six counties of service — Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Gates, Pasquotank and Perquimans — to know and trust Hopeline.

Care for battered and abused requires phenomenal empathy, patience and skill from those providing therapy. It is exhausting work. Restoration can be elusive and ephemeral. Recidivism can decimate bystanders. Giving up is not an option. Confidentiality is job #1!

An uncommon quiet and raw silence fell upon the room. Listeners seemed numbed by what they had heard. At least I was. Remembered advice from childhood, “Keep hands to self.” Did others not hear this growing up?

Speakers fluent in Spanish are available at Hopeline.

All services, such as counseling, court advocacy, emergency shelter or learning parenting skills are free of charge.

Free 24-hour Crisis phone is 252-338-3011. Or phone the front office at 252-338-5338. Mail delivers to P.O. Box 2064, Elizabeth City, NC 27906-2064.

As we adjourned and headed home, Lorenzo Bozo blurted out, “Lady E.T., have you ever been bullied?” Ouch! Question hits us.

There are 10 commandments. Perhaps the 11th Commandment should be “Thou Shalt Not Bully.”

Good idea, Lorenzo. Stay tuned.

Lions Serve.

John Mitchener III is past president of the Edenton Lions Club, 2010-11.