Twenty Hours on a Bus

Several days per week, I set aside time to stroll around our campus. Not only does this allow me to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, but it gives me the opportunity to interact with staff, visiting parents, and most importantly, our residents.

Six weeks ago, I found myself standing alongside Anna*, a resident in our dining hall. I asked how her treatment was going and discovered she had just admitted. I asked how she learned about our program and why she chose it. Anna explained that she researched us online and decided TK offered what she needed to recover from extreme trauma—so much so that she spent 20 hours on a bus to get to our center.

In rapid succession, I was stunned by what she went through to get here, then humbled by her faith in our ability to help her, then a bit daunted because it was now on us to deliver—we had to be worthy of her trust.

Only then did my manners catch up with me and I introduced myself and explained that I was the CEO. Before we went our separate ways, I asked Anna if I could chat with her again at the conclusion of her treatment to ascertain if her long journey had been worth it.

Week after week, I requested status reports on her progress. It seemed her treatment was going well. Then, last Friday, I was walking across campus when I heard my name being called. It was Anna, asking if I would come to her graduation; it was in 30 minutes. Of course I would be there.

After the ceremony, I posed the pivotal question: Was it worth it? Her answer was as short as it was honest: absolutely.

Only when I heard that single word did I realize how important her response had become to me. Essentially, in my mind, Anna had become “every resident.” Because each woman and girl who comes to Timberline Knolls is completely different, yet equally important. And each takes a different path to get to our care, both literally and figuratively. Perhaps she has experienced many treatment programs without success, gotten so deep into an addiction or disorder that death seemed the only way out, or argued with insurance companies endlessly to get the care she required.  She might have taken a plane from the other side of the world, driven by car across country, or caught a cab from downtown Chicago.

Regardless of the emotional and physical journey each resident takes, we owe her. We must give each woman and girl who walks through our doors our very best. Every single day we must provide excellent care, and therefore, give her the best chance for complete and lasting recovery. Quite simply, every Anna matters.

*not her real name