I had some friends over for dinner a few weeks ago and, inevitably, conversation turned to work. One of the women at the table asked what I do for a living, and after explaining the Gateway Center she was impressed and somewhat shocked.
“Sounds like you guys see a lot of people every day- I bet it can be really sad. How can you stay so positive?”
My coworkers and I get this question a whole heck of a lot, so I have my typical canned response about how the successes outweigh the frustrations and the sadness that we encounter etc. etc.
If I am honest, though, there are some days that the overwhelming needs of our clients can affect me really profoundly. But my hope comes from the one thing that I have come to learn and hold on to in my two years here – that we are all human.
Pretty simple truth, huh? But, like most true things, this fact is incredibly simple and complex at the same time. The best description of this foundational truth comes from a book I recently read called Heroes and Monsters by Josh Riebock;
“Thieves can be generous, and even the kindest person hates. In every human there is both an arsonist and an architect, marked with the thumbprint of good and the claws of evil, breathing both death and life into this world. Humans are both stench and aroma.”
This tension in every person gives me hope- I know that even the toughest clients have an entire story and a complex word inside of them that I can only see one finite piece of in their time with us. I choose to be positive in that I believe that every single client of ours (and every staff person, volunteer and community member as well), will eventually choose to embrace their inner architect, and, even if we never see it or hear about it, that they will succeed.
Humans are complex, and if there is one thing that I have learned in my time at Gateway, it is that there is no such thing as a homeless person…just humans experiencing homelessness. And we have to continually extend the same grace and expectations to our clients that we impose on ourselves.
So in a job where there tends to be a lot of tragedy, we have to continually remind ourselves of the victories, and take comfort in the fact that we are all human, and that we have a lot more in common than we have differences.
Last year over 4,400 unique persons stayed at Gateway Center in their journey towards self-sufficiency and out of homelessness. $10 provides meals for a day for one of these men, women, and children. Make a donation today.