Monday, December 7, 2009

The Perfect Fit

Every goal has more than one path. Melanie Hayden Sparks
I had to go into the shelter yesterday to be interviewed by a couple of TV crew who were doing stories on our cold winter weather. "How are things at the shelter?" I was asked. "Busy and business as always," I replied.

Clients and staff find it comical that people are interested in what happens at the shelter when it's cold. "There isn't cold weather in the rest of the city?" one of them commented yesterday as I walked back through the front doors out of the Arctic air.

"It's a great chance to remind people that we need help," I told him. "Every chance I get to put a human face on what we do, and to stir people's generosity is a good thing. We still need gloves and socks and warm winter jackets. The media help us get the message out."

On the second floor, our Day Area, it was busy. The Arctic temperatures meant going outside was risky. People and their winter belongings were crowded into the space. Every chair was full. One of the camera crews came up to the floor to do the interview. We announced to everyone that the camera crew was there. Asked those who didn't want to appear on film to turn their backs or put their heads down or, go out on the smoke deck for a break until we were done. It only takes about five minutes -- but for clients who don't want to appear in the background on film, that five minutes can feel like an eternity, and an invasion of their privacy.

As we wrapped up filming yesterday a man walked up and angrily demanded. "What are you doing filming here? Nobody told us you were here."

"We made an announcement," I told him. "It was on the loud speaker."

"Well I didn't hear it!"

"I'd get them to make it again but we've finished."

"Harumph," he started to walk away, hurling his thoughts back at us. "We have rights you know. It's not right that you come here and film."

Bless him. Strengthen me.

As the camera crew packed up and left another client approached me. "You can put me on film anytime," he said. "I'm so grateful this place is here. Anything I can do to help out is okay by me."

"Thank you," I replied.

Bless him. Strengthen me.

There are many paths to reach your goal. For one man, creating a sense of control, of establishing some privacy over his being was reached by angrily confronting those disturbing his peace. For the other, gratitude rested in his heart, a peaceful companion to helping however he can.

When I first started working at the shelter three and a half years ago, media didn't often call or appear. My goal was to solicit their support, to encourage them to take an active voice in our work. I've taken many steps to reach that goal, not all of them one's I felt comfortable with until I walked the path and discovered their value. Always, the steps appeared necessary to ensure 'the public' kept homelessness and the work we do in the forefront of their consciousness.

Is it wrong to film within the building is a question I often ask myself? Am I exploiting the plight of those who have no voice? Am I putting the needs of the organization above the needs of the individual?

Yes and no.

It is the moral dilemma of what is best for the collective whole does not always sit well with the individual.

In searching for insight I came across an interesting test. The Moral Politics Test. As an overview, "This test explains why you think what you think by mapping your personal moral system. For instance we won't ask you questions on taxes but try to find what moral views shape your opinion on taxes. Moral views are the major predictors of political opinions."

And thus, I come to light. I have always known I'm a liberal. This test confirmed it. There are only 9% of 500,000+ respondents more liberal than me, and 67% more conservative.

I know where I fit in.

How do I create a perfect fit for my views to live alongside your views and the views of others without forcing you to comply is always my path. It sometimes takes a different course. Sometimes, veers off my perceived path to encompass differing perspectives and ideas, ideas that inform my decision-making processes to allow for harmony, peace and justice to have an equal seat. In my quest to bring to light the vagaries, exigencies and tragedies of homelessness, I must always walk my path of turning up, paying attention, speaking my truth, and staying unattached to the outcome -- regardless of my goal, I must always stay true to me.

It was an interesting day at the shelter. A fascinating day in my mind!

The question is: What path are you on? Are you still on track, regardless of the path, to reach your goals?


Freddie Martin Arbuthnot said...

I am keeping 2 dogs for people in the Salvation Army shelter because there is not a place for pets of the homeless unless they live in their cars. What is the solution, as I am not wealthy and keeping and feeding two large dogs creates some problems. The animals should not be punished because the parents are in trouble. These people have been there over a month and can only find some parttime work, don't know how long until they have a place to live. It is all really sad. Freddie

M.L. Gallagher said...

I visited your blog Freddie -- and I am in awe.

Because of you, this is a better world.

Because of you, there is hope.

Because of you, I am inspired.

Thank you!

L.L. Barkat said...

"How do I create a perfect fit for my views to live alongside your views and the views of others without forcing you to comply is always my path."

Oh yes. That's a challenge.

I came over through the 12 Day Celebration... via Maureen's lovely celebration of you. :)

Maureen said...

Be sure to check my blog when you get a chance.

Hugs. ~ M

Anonymous said...


If any of us find a perfect fit, if we are so lucky, we should treasure it's glow - fleeting as it is likely to be. I relate to views of both residents; the one who asks his privacy be protected, the other so open. Both are right. Both are challenged by circumstance + boundary issues. If the circumstances were vastly different, they'd likely have similar boundary issues. While the circumstances are challenging for homeless folks and those who try to help, the issues we might be more sensitive to in other circumstance are, obsviously, overlooked. This, I think, answers the proverbial question of 'why the rage?'

keep writing . .

p.s. ... and return my call please, it's your turn!