I hope we meet
Published 29 March 2016
Last month I was reading a blog written by someone I really admire, who runs a service like ours in Sydney. He was describing an interaction he had with a visitor where he felt that even if he had sat with this man for a month, the man would have been fixated on how the world had brought him injustice from the moment of his birth. He described how the man spent all of his time explaining how alone he was and how bad people never seem to face justice. He eloquently explained that the man had no sense that he was there, with him, waiting for him to come out of himself and make contact and how disappointed he was that they didn’t “meet”. He felt the man had made an assumption that he would be the same as all the others in the world who had committed cruel acts towards him.
My husband has a saying that he tells me he picked up from Anthony Robbins, “It’s not the snake bite that kills you, it’s chasing after the snake.” He means that when you focus on the people who have done you injustice, you move around allowing the venom to course through your body, infecting and permeating every part of you. If you are still, and focus on the next actions you need to take to care for yourself and your own wellbeing, you will survive.”
There has been many a day where I have been talking with a visitor from our centre and been ready, willing and available to engage, to contribute my 50% of the interaction, to listen, validate and encourage and I have left the interaction feeling that we didn’t quite meet or connect and that was because the person had isolated themselves into a place where they were a victim. These characteristics seem to be evident in visitors to our centre who are very “stuck”. Our case support workers have many techniques they use to try to work with someone who is experiencing this phenomenon and it can take a lot of hard work by everyone involved to move through this point.
Empowerment is, in my view, is key to breaking a cycle of self isolation and “chasing the snake”. More and more we are asking ourselves how to create an environment of empowerment. When we talk about empowerment in our context we mean measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self determination in the lives of our visitors so they can represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority. It happens in small ways.
Our Chef recently came to me and asked if he could change our standard Bain Marie style hot breakfast to a- la- carte made to order. I told him to give it a try and see what happened. Slowly, day by day he gets more orders from people who exercise their right to choose poached eggs over scrambled, runny eggs over well done. It’s an interesting experiment which sees the meals delivered by hand to our visitors rather than them lining up and waiting, provides opportunities for more interaction, seems to create a sense of value and as well as empowering our visitors it is empowering our kitchen team. Over breakfast they are no longer the providers of welfare, serving the meals to the homeless in that cliché of “the soup kitchen”. They are providing a service; they get feedback from our visitors on the quality of what they provide. It’s a small step but an affirming one.
A shining example of empowerment came to us recently in the form of a lady called Avra Velis, who wanted to contribute. She has run an amazing towel drive called “Chuck in ya towel” which has seen us raise nearly 2000 towels so far. Her self-belief and ability to mobilize people and create for them a sense of accomplishment is incredible. Next week she is holding a fundraiser at The Story Bridge Hotel to celebrate the end of the towel drive. Check out her Facebook page at Chuck in ya towel and if you would like to attend the fundraiser you can purchase tickets at
Have a safe and happy Easter everyone.