When it comes to working closely with the community, it can become easy to start seeing people as a problem to be solved, or even a problem to be avoided.
Unfortunately our response to crisis and need leads us to start “othering” people. In order to make sense of the suffering that other people are facing we slowly begin to strip away their humanity. Oftentimes we do this because it makes us uncomfortable and we’re unsure of how to respond. We start thinking of people as “those people”, and we reduce them down to a label of whatever circumstances they might currently be facing.
When we hear statistics about how many people are currently experiencing houselessness, we can experience those data points as disembodied numbers and forget that those numbers represent real people. When we read heartbreaking news stories about the violence and crime happening in our own city, we can forget that these headlines are people's actual lived experiences.
If we want to see change in our community, we have to start changing the way we view our community. We have to begin to look closely and with greater intention and remind ourselves of who people truly are beneath the surface.
We have given out over 2,600 showers since beginning our Mobile Shower Program. These showers represents people with a story. They were once a kid, they had dreams for their life, they had struggles they went through, they have people they care about, and people who deeply care about them.
They have good days and bad days. They have things that make them laugh and things that make them cry. They face their own set of victories and mourn their own personal losses. These community members might need our help, but they’re more than just people to be pitied. They are our neighbors and they are just as deserving of dignity and respect as anyone else.
This is why our programs are based on more than just meeting a practical need, they’re also about the restoration of dignity for those who oftentimes live without it. It’s about fixing our vision so we can bring things into focus that might escape our notice if we’re not careful. It’s about seeing people as human, and understanding that all humans are deserving of care and consideration.
It’s learning to see our own reflection not simply in the mirror, but in the faces of those we encounter every day no matter who they are. Now that’s true community!