Living through our values
Published 21 June 2017
Lately I have been wondering what I could share that would mean something. After lots of inner musings about not wanting to share for the sake of sharing (and having a high level of discomfort with the possibility of return emails that say ‘I’m so sorry!), I have decided to disclose a part of my story, because it has parallels with those we work with at 139 Club.
Recently I had the experience of a breast cancer diagnosis. I don’t wish to be identified by it any more than I want to be identified by the fact that I have fingernails that won’t grow or bunions on my feet from too much ballet as a child. What I am happy to own and be identified by is the magic and insight that has come from the diagnosis, and how that has allowed me to reflect on the wonderful place in which I work, with all the eclectic and colourful souls that inhabit it.
When this bump in the road arose I was reminded of how important it is for people to find their identity, whatever that looks like for them. I wish to take nothing from those people who identify themselves as cancer survivors or who commit themselves to raising awareness of whatever particular illness impacts them. It’s a big deal and it creates insight and passion in people in all sorts of wonderful ways. For me, there will be no ardent wearing of pink ribbons or specific promotion of breast cancer awareness or referring to myself as a survivor of anything. What you will see in me is a deepening of the things I already cared about. Individual identity is one of those things.
Identity is important when times are tough, as they are for many of our visitors. I have never referred to the people we work with as “the homeless” because they are so much more than the conglomerate, homogenized mass that a label like that connotes. The people who visit with us are all unique with broad and varied backgrounds. They have some things in common and also have differences.
They are Renee, who was quite the roller skating champion in her day, and Barry, who was one of the smoothest used car salesmen around despite the fact he was never able to drive. They are Ken, who thinks he has no talent despite being able to write uplifting and moving songs, and Maree, whose paintings “just to brush out the cobwebs” are better than those many artists could produce on a good day.
On a deeper level they are Arnie, who looks aggressive and angry on the outside but on the inside craves the love, connection and comfort that was never afforded to him as a child. They are Marla, who wants so desperately to believe in herself and her worth but cannot shake the feeling that she deserves the blows to her body inflicted by her abusive partner. They are Rain, who after many years of living with no home has found a deeper comfort, believing his home lives within him and his role in life is to share his own serenity and comfort with others.
Identity is important because it is the constant that we carry with us wherever we go. We can pretend to create neat compartments for the various pieces of our lives to keep them separate, to differentiate and to create boundaries. Despite this, at our very hearts, we are whole entities, applying ourselves in totality to all of the experiences in our life. When I am at work I am as whole and undivided as I am when I am vacuuming the floor or loving someone dear to me. Individual identity is crucial to how we uphold and support the dignity of our visitors and encourage them to continue to be the experts on their own life. It is crucial to how we, as a team of people working together, conduct ourselves and live through our values.
The end of financial year is approaching. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported us over the past year, and let you know it makes my heart warm to know we will continue to receive help as we move forward. But today, instead of a fundraising appeal, I would ask you to think about your identity. Who are you? What makes you tick? What do you care about? If you would like to donate, I and the people who come here will be warmly appreciative, but maybe you would also like to come and visit us, or experience what it’s like to volunteer, or just keep reading my funny little words, or even unsubscribe if we are not part of your identity. Until next time……