Lugging my table into the basement of the church, I was pointed toward what seemed to be the youth lounge, filled with comfortable, well-worn sofas and chairs. This was where I was to give massages on Saturday afternoon to many of the StreetLeaders during their annual girls’ retreat. I was joined by Dalina, a former StreetLeader who is now attending massage school in Collingswood.
How to make this space soothing, a brief “place away” that spas so often feel like? Spas that I have been so fortunate to experience, often without a second thought. I sprayed lavender around the room – the scent of relaxation. I set up my speakers and began to play gentle instrumental music. Would it resonate with the girls? Would they feel what I was trying to share? We both set up our tables, discussed how much of a massage we could give in 10 minutes, and waited.
Soon enough it was 2 o’clock and they began to come. The girls had 3 choices for the last 2 hours of the retreat – picture taken, nails painted and massages. My first “client” kept her ear buds in, listening to loud, driving music instead of my soundtrack. But she relaxed right into having her hands and shoulders rubbed, and was clearly appreciative of the experience. 2 more girls came and went – and then a lull. Here we were worried that 2 people giving massages wouldn’t be enough and now they weren’t even coming? We needn’t have been concerned – word soon got out that massages felt good, and that taking off your shirt was optional! Now the girls came in groups of 4, then 6 – and I had to put on my mom voice to quell the lively chatter.
I figured all the girls waiting their turns would be chased away by my stern look and tone, but to my delighted surprise, instead they settled into those comfy chairs and sat quietly, listening to the music and looking serenely peaceful. There was the occasional murmur of conversation but it stayed quiet. At one point there were 12 girls enjoying our space while 2 at a time received the gift of massage.
Afterwards one of the interns told me no one can ever get them to be quiet all at once! Maybe it was the lavender. Maybe the music. I like to think they were feeling safe and loved for a moment. A healing moment.