As a visitor to one of the four sites of 1JustCity, I was given an opportunity to spin their “roulette wheel of risk”. The risk that came up for me is the white one in this photograph….it challenged me to: Build a new relationship. Spend 5 minutes getting to know someone at a place like 1JustCity.
Fortunately for me, my opportunity to risk had already happened – I had just spent 30 minutes in conversation with a volunteer at 1JustCity – an open, honest and unassuming 40-ish man named Brent. We chatted about his job as a volunteer at the West Broadway Community Ministry (WBCM is one of 1JustCity’s 4 sites). During that conversation, Brent described daily life at the centre, and daily life for Brent. Like the roulette wheel, Brent over-turned many common myths about folks who find themselves in need of the services and support of agencies like WBCM.
MYTH: Foster care is hell and responsible for many people ending up in socio-economic difficulties.
Brent the mythbuster says “I wouldn’t be alive today except for two great foster parents and this place”.
MYTH: People on income assistance don’t want to work.
Brent the mythbuster spends most of his free time looking for work that provides him with an income. Two places would hire him if he had his driver’s license. Getting a driver’s license requires money that Brent doesn’t have. In the meantime he works as a volunteer at WBCM – and proudly points out the many tasks he is responsible for every day that the centre is open.
MYTH: People on income assistance spend their health and money on cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.
Brent the mythbuster doesn’t use any of these and never has. Which lead him to tell me the story about how he has been successful in helping another of the guests at the centre to reduce their drug use….”I’ve been able to get him down from 5 needles to 2”.
After my visit with Brent, I learned that one of the four pillars of 1JustCity is loving the underloved. Brent seems to be supporting this pillar wonderfully, as he tells me that “when folks have a crisis here, we want them to know someone cares.” Another of the 1JustCity pillars is building individual capacity. Brent’s individual capacity is still under construction, and I pray that the work of building continues in his current direction. I learned a couple of other interesting things from the folks who provide leadership for WBCM and 1JustCity. They were things that pointed so clearly to the benefits I enjoy in my privileged circumstances ….I have never had to add my name to a 2-month long waiting list for use of laundry facilities….I have always had someone in my life who I could name as my “emergency contact” on a form. Have you? Do you know someone who has had these kinds of experiences?
I met someone who has, and his name is Brent. And even though there was only time to begin building our relationship, we were far enough along in getting to know each other that we agreed to take a selfie together.
Deb Kigar graduated from CCS in 2011.
More reflections on Courageous Risking at the DUCC conference.