Everything changes when you meet someone who has been sex-trafficked. When stories of family members selling their middle schooler to the local John for a little extra cash become a real live, walking, breathing, and talking young girl, things start to change. The world becomes hazy, and the reality of what you have been advocating for (me personally from a laptop) smacks you in the face and you are left reeling, hoping someone will catch you in the midst of your fall. You cannot help but stare, not in a gawking, cynical kind of way, but in a way of reflection. How can this be possible? How can she be sitting there like her past is normal? How can I possibly help her live a normal life in this world when all I can do is hope that she doesn’t see the tears streaming down my cheek? And then you realize, she is real. She is the story I’ve been reading about, retweeting, posting, and advocating for. Now she is sitting next to me, on a hard, plastic chair, waving off the heat as we watch Chipper saunter up to bat.

I find myself looking bleary eyed at the computer screen from crying all the way home. I went to a Braves game tonight with some of the women from Wellspring Living, and had the distinct honor of talking with them, laughing with them, and just standing in sheer awe at the beauty that radiates from them. And it was real. For the first time, this day-to-day routine of a job became real because I saw directly whom it affected, and that changes everything for me.

I saw their smiles.

I heard their laughter.

I heard their struggles.

And I became very proud of the organization I work for.

This is what it’s about folks. Seeing the broken-hearted and walking behind them trying to pick up the fallen pieces. In an instant everything I’ve done over the past few months became a million times more worth it. It’s worth the fight, worth the battle, and worth the pain. Because in the end, the restoration experience for these women far exceeds anything I could ever hope for.

***Photos by Andy Brophy at One Nine Images***