Find your starfish

In recent weeks I’ve had the opportunity to talk to lots of people and organisations that are interested in homelessness and the work of 3rd Space. Almost universally, people ask me “what is the cure for homelessness?” The first answer to that is pretty simple….housing.

There is more to it than that, of course and when we start to discuss the ins and outs of the issues our visitors face, inevitably things start to feel a bit complex and overwhelming. It interests me that for many people, the first place they head to is wanting to know what the largescale ‘fix’ is and when that seems inordinately difficult, they become disengaged.

I tend to get quite caught up in the largescale end of things (given my role as CEO) but every now and then, I get the chance to spend one-on-one time with our visitors. Last week I was working alongside a visitor sorting donations. I was impressed with his ability to appraise the donations in terms of their suitability for our service, sort them, recommend where we might send some that weren’t fit for our purposes and also tell me how to spot a fake Louis Vuitton handbag. He approached the work with precision and decisiveness. Together, we worked at lightning pace, sifting through bags and areas. I found myself pondering on the untapped potential of my workmate and whether he knew how talented and effective he was.

Someone told me the starfish story recently. I admit I have never heard it but it resonated with me:

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

The big picture is important. As we enter Homelessness Week, we know that a largescale targeted and evidence-based approach to the appalling state of homelessness in this country is needed. I also believe that for each of us, as individuals, we can do something effective, something that matters.

Go find your starfish!

Sara
3rd Space CEO

Looking at 3rd Space with fresh eyes

2017 was a big year for 3rd Space. There was a café opening, a rebrand and we started opening on weekends. Then there was that whole cancer thing and juggling full-time work with solo-parenting three kids and the washing machine of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. 2018 has been a year of catching up and rediscovering the things that didn’t catch my eye properly in 2017. There was a point a few weeks ago where it all seemed overwhelming and I started to wonder if perhaps I had become stale.

In a passing conversation with one of our frontline team members, I asked “Do you think we make a difference?” She stopped and looked at me and said “You must be questioning whether you should still be here or you wouldn’t ask that. I can tell you story after story about how we change lives every day.” I left our chat thinking I had lost my mojo.

I recall that when I first started here I was brimming with ideas and most of them had to go into a place in my notebook that I called “the carpark” because I had no hope of having the time or the money to get to them. As I reflected on whether I could still add value to 3rd Space, I realised my carpark was empty. Not one aspirational thought. Me without hopes and dreams for what’s next is catastrophic for my team, our visitors and the organisation.

I’m still here. So, what’s changed? I found my fresh eyes again. It started with a 360-degree feedback tool I used to find out what was and wasn’t working about my leadership. I beat myself up for a while on the things I wasn’t doing well and then just sat with the feedback for a while to let it wash around. And then I had some wonderful interactions with inspiring people. A high-ranking police officer who isn’t afraid to upset the status quo because he believes in doing things a better way; an academic I discovered who articulates a social theory that resonates with what we do; a young entrepreneur making his own rules and using technology to help him fly; a volunteer who was in between jobs; a media personality who is grounded and humble; and a young man who sits outside my office every day, listening to music and in his words “just sitting here because it feels safe to me.”

We have a range of exciting projects simmering away in the carpark now. Some of them might take time and money and some will just take effort to rethink why we do what we do, what we are trying to achieve and how else we can get the outcome we want.

One of our recent projects relates to our footprint as an organisation. I noticed my team talking a lot about their efforts to live in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way and asked them if they wanted us to re-align 3rd Space to be more sustainable. The first response I got back was “I am literally peeing my pants with excitement!” So, in a few short weeks we have implemented a new recycling system, with a new waste-management provider, including specialist recycling for the hairnets and gloves we use in the café, cosmetics bottles and packages and expanded composting. Managing soft plastics and cigarette butts is on the way. It is a growing space and in fact, has been much easier to implement than we thought. And it’s saving us a little money too. As a community provider supporting people who are homeless, the 194 tonnes of waste we were sending to landfill each year didn’t sit right with us – as we were helping people at the cost of our planet. We care about all of it!

We have a wonderful charity dinner happening on 28 June 2018 at beautiful Bucci Restaurant and Bar in the Valley and as the MC for the night, I feel so glad I found my mojo again and can continue to find ways of telling the story of homelessness. Perhaps you would like to join us at our OneNightStand Against Homelessness? There are a few tickets left and we would love to see you – http://buytickets.at/3rdspacebrisbane/165865.

Sara
3rd Space CEO

We can all make a difference

At 3rd Space life can be colourful. It’s a place with a rainbow of personalities, people of different backgrounds, with diverse life experiences, all with their own personal stories. One of the realities of an environment like ours is that every now and then, those who choose to work and volunteer here can find themselves directly under attack from the people who visit us.

I was in 3rd Space Café a while ago eating lunch, joined by my daughters. Some of our team were at the next table. A man came to sit near us and I engaged in conversation with him, welcoming him and chatting briefly. All seemed well and then suddenly the man got up, went to a nearby table and removed the bowl of beef and barley soup being eaten by a fellow visitor and slammed it down on the table next to me in the middle of our team. What can only be described as a diatribe followed. How dare they look and sound joyous and happy! How dare everyone in 3rd Space Café be smiling and laughing while he was doing it tough and trying to sit quietly! How disrespectful they were for eating menu items they had purchased when he was eating soup!

I tried to talk to the man and find out what the problem really was. I didn’t get very far. He wanted to know who I was. I told him my name and identified that I worked at 3rd Space. He made a number of insulting comments designed to wound.

Our ethos at 3rd Space is that the minute someone starts to impact on other people’s enjoyment of the space, it is time for them to take stock and recalibrate, move away or leave altogether until they can be calm and respectful. I gave the man these options and invited him to sit somewhere else away from the people he was insulting. As expected, this was not met with a good response and ultimately, led to him being asked to leave. He did so, yelling and screaming as he went.

The environment at 3rd Space is usually calm but people under stress and suffering from the effects of drugs, alcohol or mental illness can behave in erratic and aggressive ways. Sometimes it can be a sign of a batch of drugs that has become available or isn’t clean, or of dynamics that are happening between people out on the street that we know nothing of. Many years ago, one of our visitors reminded me that what we see inside 3rd Space is just a microscopic view of a much larger set of happenings on the streets. The world out there is ugly and tough. With the recent release of the 2016 Census data, we have been reminded of how tough. On 2016 Census night, there were 1708 people classified as homeless in the inner city. This translates to 323.9 homeless individuals per 10,000 people – seven times the state-wide rate of 45.6 per 10,000.

Life on the streets is foreign to many but sadly not to our visitors. Our exposure to the confronting and ugly side of homelessness is limited compared to those who experience it. As I was walking through Fortitude Valley this morning I saw many people I knew and many I didn’t who clearly were homeless. It made me sad that the issue is a hot potato. Everyone thinks it is someone else’s responsibility to ‘fix’ it. And many people believe that it’s the government’s sole responsibility to deal with. The reality is that it takes a community, the government, people who care, councils and many others to work together to help people help themselves.

If YOU want to help, please ask us how! We have a myriad of ways – from small to astronomically large – that will show what a difference we can all make.

Sara
3rd Space CEO

Board director opportunities

3rd Space is a day centre for people who are homeless and disadvantaged. We aren’t your regular community service. We are a little bit quirky and a little bit different. With our vision ‘Safe spaces to be – Safe places to call home’ we are about spaces and places where homeless people survive and thrive. Dignity matters to us. We are a place where people get real help in a way that makes them feel honoured, valued and loved.

Our services

There is a bunch of practical stuff you need to survive and we’ve got it covered. Showers, meals, laundry, phone charging, storage, day beds, toiletries and clothes.

We have a team of people who are full of professionalism, ideas, flexibility, acceptance, know-how and practical skills. We are here to coach, affirm, advocate and assist people going through some of the worst times of their lives. We help with financial distress, finding a place to live, managing health problems, sorting through legal issues and just about everything else. It’s rare to find a problem we cannot tackle and in the rare instances where we cannot help we will find someone who can. Most of all we provide a place where people can just ‘be,’ where they can feel safe and welcome.

Our challenge

We are on the precipice of an exciting new era. With the launch of a new strategic plan we are leading projects which will see us refresh and rebrand our offerings. We are mastering our leadership in passionately seeking a solution to the homelessness issue in inner city Brisbane. The next five years will be ones where we see many years work behind the scenes come to fruition to help the people we care about.

To meet this challenge, we are building a diverse group of Directors who are both capable governors and highly networked, with the ability to engender support to ensure both the sustainability and expanded service offering of 3rd Space.

Is this opportunity for you?

You will believe in the right of every person to be able to walk through life with dignity, no matter what their background is, or where they are at in life. You should believe in solutions over barriers and simplicity over complexity. Your substantial business experience, commercial acumen and extensive connected networks means you understand the crucial role relationships play in creating social change in our communities. Your exposure to large scale projects means you come from an outcomes-based perspective with big picture thinking. You will come to this role with an understanding of the commitment required to drive organisational change and create lasting impact.

Completion of the AICD’s Company Director Course (or equivalent Board Directorship experience) is essential. To be considered, please submit your resume (Word format) by clicking “apply now”.  Confidential enquiries can be made to the Chair of the Nominations Committee, Vincent McFarlane, on 0409 533 688 or via email at vmcf@bigpond.net.au.

Taking the first step towards happiness

It has been three years since I first took the helm as CEO of 3rd Space. I have been reflecting with a sense of sentimentality and wonder at the journey we have taken over that time; and in reflecting, I often come back to the people who visit with us, whom I have come to know well.

The other week I was walking past the bathrooms here and stopped to chat with a woman who was propping open the bathroom door. I am very fond of this woman and feel an element of curiosity about her potential and whether it will ever be realised. I recall a time when she had become involved with a man who physically and emotionally abused her, and both had come to visit with us when it became evident she was quite unwell. He was charming and said all the right words to me, feigning concern over her health but was actually preventing her from seeking medical assistance, not wanting her to be in a position where he couldn’t control her movements. As our nurse quietly sat with her, trying to convince her to attend the hospital, he was nervously circling around them.

Later that day, a conflict ensued between them as they exited the centre and he started to verbally abuse her. The conflict escalated quickly. With our encouragement, she re-entered the building and we shut and locked the doors to keep her partner outside while the police came. I sat with her while she shook from the fear and adrenaline. Sadly, she wouldn’t accept any more help than the in-the-moment protection our building afforded. Fortunately, he exited her life that day due to a string of other criminal charges that saw him spend time in a correctional facility.

Over the years, I have seen her battle drugs and all the health concerns a full-time habit can bring. I’ve seen her sleeping rough, couch surfing, staying in hostels and boarding houses. She has, at all times, greeted me with a smile and genuine care and concern for how I am. When I had cancer this year she stopped and told me that she thought her troubles were insignificant compared to mine. We share little bits of our stories with each other and she impresses me as a beautiful, kind-hearted, large-souled, intelligent woman who in different circumstances, would have the world at her feet. Despite our best efforts to be there for her and support her, she won’t accept what we can offer and things in her life remain unchanged.

There was a time after chemotherapy finished and I was in the midst of radiotherapy, when I looked in the mirror and had nothing to say to myself. I had no hair, eyebrows or eyelashes and in the first light of morning, without the trickery of makeup, I saw a person looking back at me that on the outside looked dehumanised, android and nondescript. It wasn’t my vanity that caused me sadness in that moment but my complete lack of a sense of who I was on the inside. It wasn’t that I felt lost. I actually felt nothing – no sense of anything. And so, I wondered how anyone else could feel anything for me or about me. In that space it was difficult to remember a time when I had a firm sense of who I was and what I was about, and so it was implausible to conceive of how I might feel ok again. I had enough cognitive function left to consider taking a step or two and try a few things to see if it helped me get back on the right track. When I took these steps, I had very little faith that they would work. However, very quickly I became clear-headed, resolute, strong, happy and am close to hitting my best form. I am lucky.

I wonder how my dear friend feels when she looks in the mirror and if she feels like I did. I know there is a road back to a happier place for her but don’t yet know what it would take for her to take a step. In the meantime, I am happy that the physical security our building and its services provide for her take the sting out of what can be a very stressful existence. Supporting someone like this who has been entrenched in poverty, disadvantage and drug addiction for years to make a transition to a more peaceful and stable life is a long journey that lasts years and takes intense resources.

Are the resources there? No. What would it take? It’s simple…..money.

Christmas is approaching and we could really use your help. As we struggle with the dilemma of what gift to buy our loved ones, we don’t always realise how privileged we are to even have to make these decisions. This Christmas, you might like to buy someone you care about the gift of giving. If you can, please support us by clicking on the “donate” button on this page (www.3rdspace.org.au), and either give directly or on your loved one’s behalf, and help us to help our visitors take a step towards happiness.

Wishing you and yours a safe and joyful Christmas.

Sara
3rd Space CEO

CALL FOR WEEKEND VOLUNTEERS

The countdown is on! 3rd Space and 3rd Space Café will open on weekends from December, offering respite to Brisbane’s homeless and people doing it tough. Consequently, we are looking for more awesome volunteers to make our visitors feel welcome on Saturdays and Sundays!

Our volunteers are valued members of the 3rd Space team, where we have a different way of delivering service to people doing it tough. We get that like us, everyone’s a little bit quirky and a little bit different. Everyone is welcome. We want our visitors to enjoy clean and fresh places to relax, grab a nap, a meal, a shower and clean clothes. Our terrific volunteers support this by providing a warm welcome and great service.

Please contact us at volunteers@3rdspace.org.au if you are interested in any of the following roles:

 

WEEKEND WAIT STAFF

ABOUT THE ROLE

Your responsibilities will include:

Cleanliness and safety: You will support high standards of cleanliness and safety by:

  • Maintaining a safe and clean workspace
  • Cleaning or sanitising work areas, utensils or equipment
  • Cleaning service or seating areas
  • Disposing rubbish.

Customer experience: You will contribute to the great customer experience offered at 3rd Space Café by:

  • Greeting customers as they enter the establishment
  • Taking food and beverage orders from guests and conveying them to other volunteers/staff for preparation
  • Ensuring timely delivery and presentation of food and beverages to guests
  • Suggesting additional menu items to compliment a guest’s meal
  • Using a cash register and counting change
  • Receiving and processing customer payments
  • Serving prepared foods, such as muffins, sandwiches and wraps.

Teamwork: You will contribute to an effective team by:

  • Participating in meetings and activities
  • Working with other staff and volunteers as a team
  • Maintaining a positive and motivated approach
  • Performing any other duties as instructed by the Café Supervisor/Manager.

ABOUT YOU

  • You have a passion to be involved in one of Brisbane’s most needed and most unique social services
  • You are aligned with our vision, mission and values
  • You go out of your way to help others and do what’s needed
  • You believe our customers deserve to enjoy good food in an attractive environment
  • You share our belief that everyone can contribute to a good result
  • You roll up your sleeves and do what’s needed.

 

WEEKEND BARISTA

ABOUT THE ROLE

Your responsibilities will include:

Cleanliness and safety: You will support high standards of cleanliness and safety by:

  • Maintaining a safe and clean workspace
  • Cleaning and sanitising the coffee machine and work area
  • Cleaning service and seating areas
  • Disposing of rubbish.

 Customer experience: You will contribute to the great customer experience offered at 3rd Space Café by:

  • Preparing or serving hot or cold beverages, such as coffee, espresso drinks, blended coffees or teas
  • Describing menu items to customers or suggesting products that might appeal to them
  • Providing customers with product details, such as coffee blend or preparation descriptions
  • Taking customer orders and conveying them to other volunteers/staff for preparation
  • Weighing, grinding or packing coffee beans for customers
  • Demonstrating the use of retail equipment, such as espresso machines
  • Serving menu items.

 Teamwork: You will contribute to an effective team by:

  • Participating in meetings and activities.
  • Working with other staff and volunteers as a team
  • Maintaining a positive and motivated approach.
  • Performing any other duties as instructed by the Café Supervisor/Manager.

ABOUT YOU

  • You have a passion to be involved in one of Brisbane’s most needed and most unique social services
  • You are aligned with our vision, mission and values
  • You go out of your way to help others and do what’s needed
  • You believe our customers deserve to enjoy good food in an attractive environment
  • You share our belief that everyone can contribute to a good result
  • You roll up your sleeves and do what’s needed.

 

WEEKEND KITCHEN HAND

ABOUT THE ROLE

Your responsibilities will include:

Cleanliness and safety: You will support high standards of cleanliness and safety by:

  • Washing and cleaning utensils and dishes, returning them to the kitchen and making sure they are stored appropriately
  • Cleaning food-preparation equipment, floors and other kitchen tools or areas
  • Cleaning up spillages when they occur
  • Disposing rubbish
  • Ensuring proper use of chemical/cleaning products and ensuring they are stored appropriately
  • Following all hygiene and Health and Safety regulations within the kitchen.

Food preparation and handling: You will contribute to the great food offered at 3rd Space Café by:

  • Assisting the Chef in the preparation and cooking of food, as required
  • Following direction toward portion control, cooking standards and wastage
  • Handling, sorting, storing and distributing food items.

 Teamwork: You will contribute to an effective team by:

  • Participating in meetings and activities
  • Maintaining a positive and motivated approach
  • Performing any other duties as instructed by the Chef.

ABOUT YOU

  • You have a passion to be involved in one of Brisbane’s most needed and most unique social services
  • You are aligned with our vision, mission and values
  • You go out of your way to help others and do what’s needed
  • You believe our customers deserve to enjoy good food in an attractive environment
  • You share our belief that everyone can contribute to a good result
  • You roll up your sleeves and do what’s needed.

 

WEEKEND RECEPTIONIST

ABOUT THE ROLE

Your responsibilities will include:

Welcome, support and safety: You will support the smooth operations of 3rd Space by:

  • Welcoming visitors to 3rd Space
  • Answering incoming calls
  • Assisting with items such as emergency clothing, personal products, daily necessities, laundry detergent
  • Filling out the financial checklist and performing cash till duties
  • Sorting and filing mail
  • Booking support worker and other appointments
  • Making referrals
  • Running general errands.

 Teamwork: You will contribute to an effective team by:

  • Participating in meetings and activities
  • Maintaining a positive and motivated approach
  • Performing any other duties as instructed by the Operations Manager/Volunteer Coordinator.

ABOUT YOU

  • You have a passion to be involved in one of Brisbane’s most needed and most unique social services
  • You are aligned with our vision, mission and values
  • You go out of your way to help others and do what’s needed
  • You believe our customers deserve to enjoy good food in an attractive environment
  • You share our belief that everyone can contribute to a good result
  • You roll up your sleeves and do what’s needed.

 

All roles require a minimum three-month placement at four hours a fortnight.

Watching this space

I’m sitting in 3rd Space Café searching for words to describe the weeks since our opening. I can’t be succinct, so I won’t try. It’s been a time of excitement, listening, bedding down, eating, listening, ironing out, talking, learning, listening, serving, talking, writing, listening and eating some more. A lot of listening.

The space is beautiful! Bright, cheerful, inviting. It makes you want to hang around a while and chat. That’s what I’ve been doing; so have our team and our visitors. So many new conversations happen when you pull up a seat next to someone and share a meal or a coffee in their company.

The food is delightful. Fresh, tasty, healthy, nutritious, comforting and contemporary. Our vegetarian lentil curry special is a clear winner. Even our Café Manager, Monisha – who comes from India – gives it her thumbs up. We need a little more flexibility about catering to the indulgent foodie that lives within all of us; the part of us that occasionally likes to eat something that doesn’t tick all the good boxes around sugar consumption. While our main game is to encourage and support great nutrition for all, there is a place in everyone’s life for the odd vanilla slice!

Of course, we’ve had the occasional food hiccup, where something in a dish hasn’t quite gone to plan. Like any good café we look after our visitors, listen to their feedback, own the problem, fix it and offer a refund.

Our menu has been designed by a nutritionist in conjunction with a specialist chef. It is nutrient-dense, very low in sugar and has an emphasis on packing the most amount of punch in a sensible serving size. Everything is cooked from scratch with no food additives or colourings. Gone are the days of lots of white, refined carbohydrates where the ethos was to “feed the homeless” as much as possible. One of our visiting medical staff remarked to me yesterday what an issue there was with obesity and its comorbidities in many of our vulnerable visitors, and how sensible and practical both our menu and our portion sizes were.

Our underlying ethos is that anyone who is legitimately hungry will have access to nutritious food and with that in mind, we have complimentary creamy porridge with fruit, delicious soups like chunky beef and barley served with crusty bread, all-day help-yourself fruit bowls and all the tea you can drink.

For some, there is a sense that because the café is a beautiful space and the food looks delightful, it is more expensive. Interestingly, 90% of items on the menu are a lot less expensive than our old food prices. For one couple, they felt very uncomfortable about how “fancy” the space looked and felt, and about receiving table service. After a few days, they were feeling much better.

So far, the positives have heavily outweighed the negatives. One gentleman told us that after spending a few days ordering coffee in 3rd Space Café, for the first time in years he had felt confident enough to walk into a “regular” café and order a drink. Others have said that they have been enjoying the opportunities to sit and talk.

Overwhelmingly, feedback about the quality of food and our beautiful Di Bella coffee has been stellar. I’m giving Di Bella a shameless plug, not only because the coffee is delightful but because without the Di Bella team, our café would not have come to fruition. Di Bella is an example of the impact an organisation that cares can make when it partners with people who have a dream.

Our ethos of giving people a hand up and not a hand out (but providing the lifeline when it’s needed) is a shift we have been slowly working on for the last 18 months. The transition to the café has been the biggest visual indicator of the change and certainly not everyone has liked it. Why? Change is difficult. Perception of change is even more difficult. We are challenging deep-seated and traditional notions of charity. We believe that “charity,” in its traditional sense, is the poison to empowerment and dignity. Not everyone will agree. We are watching the space and how our lovely visitors move, engage and act in it.

We don’t intend to defend the bold steps we have taken but we are enjoying hearing everyone’s views and having lots of robust discussions about the upsides and downsides. What we see is encouraging and the early data capture supports that.

It is good. It is 3rd Space Café.

Sara
CEO
139 Club

Temporarily suspended in the here and now

From the moment I got on the chemotherapy merry-go-round, I have been thinking about what it feels like to be me right now – compared to what it usually feels like. The further into the cycles of poisoning I go, the harder it is to remember what ‘normal’ looks like. Who I am today still holds the essence of who I was before…I think. “Do I seem different to you?” I keep asking people. In trying to find a word to describe the sensation of not entirely knowing whether I am still the same old Sara, I tried a few on for size. ‘Lost’ seemed a bit melodramatic. ‘Drifting’ felt like it was lacking in purpose because I am still very clear on what and who is important to me. ‘Temporarily suspended’ was the best I could come up with. That’s two words, acknowledged. Stick with me while I describe it because it’s taking us somewhere important.

What do I mean by ‘temporarily suspended’? I am firmly rooted in the now. So firmly rooted that I have almost lost my ability to dream, to think about how things might be different. Always one to give airtime to the fanciful and the dreamy, the piece of my brain that does that has largely checked out. Born an eternal optimist, I currently don’t have the ability to move within that space nor one where everything is going to hell in a handbasket. I am in the nowhere space where things are neither good nor bad, neither exciting nor dull. I am task-orientated and looking ahead a few paces less than usual. I can still do all the things required of me at work – but it requires a different type of focus. In some ways, I am relying on sets of purposeful learned behaviors rather than doing what comes automatically. In other ways, I am operating purely out of instinct.

Yesterday, a random thought about the parallels between my experience and those of our visitors emerged. The life events and other stressors our visitors face create a similar effect for them as the merry-go-round of ritualistic dosing with powerful drugs does to me. Mental-health issues, drug-and-alcohol dependence and life trauma all thrust people into a fog. Our visitors are firmly rooted in the now. They are often only looking ahead far enough to know what is happening in the next hour or at most, the rest of the day. Despite people on the outside thinking they must be constantly miserable, often they are neither happy nor unhappy, excited nor calm, hopeful nor hopeless. There are certainly times of imminent crisis where it all feels too much, just as there are moments of simple joy from a pleasant or soulful exchange with a kind person. Broadly – they are stuck and have lost their ability to dream about what else life could look like.

I was chatting with one of our regular visitors last week about his current battle with alcohol. Over and over he kept telling me stories of how the alcohol was devastatingly affecting his health. It didn’t matter where I tried to steer the conversation, he kept coming back to the same thing. When I asked him what he could do about his health, he told me more stories of the body parts that were giving out. He was stuck. Boldly and with license, because we had been talking about me heading back for a round of chemo the next day, I said to him “So it seems we are both poisoning ourselves, except I am poisoning myself to live and it looks like you are poisoning yourself to die. What do you think about that?” He agreed. We did a deal whereby the next day, I would poison myself to live and he would have a day of abstinence. I saw him five days later and he had been abstinent since we spoke. I won’t pretend our conversation was profound enough to cause a whole life shift but a five-day break was something his body would have benefited from.

I know there is an end to my experience of being temporarily suspended. But for our visitors, what is the catalyst that allows a dream of something better to emerge. Without doubt, it is to be surrounded by people who remember how to dream and who can help create the mental images that conjure up a different type of life. Our support team does just that. This is a team of truly special people, whose ability to help people transcend from a state of being temporarily suspended to one of forward movement is something made of magic. It is rooted in experience, practice, persistence, integrity, respect and a deep sense of care.

I am still asking the question “Do I still seem the same to you?” The random thought about parallel understandings and the process of writing about finding meaning in one thing because of another felt like me. So yes, I am me – temporarily suspended or not.

Sara
CEO
139 Club