September 2020 in brief.  The COVID pandemic continues.  Schools and Universities are struggling to figure out how to educate students.  Parents and communities are working to figure out how to care for children.  The deep wounds of racial inequities have come to the surface across the country. Individuals miss social interaction. The political climate is polarized.

One night last week, as we prepared the evening meal for the staff and residents,  a few of us shared that we had been upset by racial and political issues we were faced with over the course of the day.  The culture of our household at Hope & A Future is one of transparency-open sharing and active listening. We work to understand each other.  Our staff is diverse and most of us live here.   We call our working model a family of friends.  We enjoy hearing each other’s stories. Last week, after we worked to explain what had upset us and why, our conversation moved to problem solving.  What do we do?  What do we think will help?  Now what?

The themes of the evening’s conversation danced around inequities, human needs, prejudice and our diverse country.  The American melting pot and slaves.   We came to some conclusions.  We all agreed that people need to interact with people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives to begin to understand what is going on in our country.  And we need to do this on a level close enough to hear each other’s stories.  Stories often help us begin to understand the different experiences people are having in the USA.  We all agree that all people need social support.  All of these ideas are central to the thinking behind our Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Neighborhood (TIIN) model.  Founding principles for the TIIN include the notion that; everyone needs to know they are not invisible-they are heard and they matter. That someone will be there for us! When individuals know they matter to their group, genuine belonging is developed. Purpose is developed as each of us discovers and develops our talents, skills and abilities and shares them with the group. Healthy relationships involve giving and receiving-purpose and belonging. Yet there is minimal discussion about how purpose and belonging are developed. We know that safe and equitable environments are needed for everyone to experience purpose and belonging.  Our TIIN model is intentionally diverse and offers long term intergenerational relationships.  There is a beautiful synergy between the needs and strengths of young and old-they are uniquely equipped to help each other. For people able to give and receive, share, listen and learn within a diverse intentional neighborhood there is a tremendous reward.   Loneliness, isolation and hopelessness can be obliterated!  Diverse people can problem solve and experience the growing pains and joy of moving forward together.

In last week’s conversation we acknowledged personal experiences indicating that not everyone can tolerate community conversations and team problem solving.  We settled in on two main reasons.  One, some people may have been kicked around in life so much that they have lost their ability to trust others along the way.  Two, some people struggle with mental health issues that stop them from being able to trust or tolerate others.  For people in this group, individual work may be primary for them to live their best life. There may also be a third issue that stands alone.  Some folks seem unable to imagine walking in another person’s shoes. Although imagining is limited, it is a start when trying to understand people who have lived vastly different experiences in the same country. In his book Hillbilly Elegy, J D Vance points out that when people are born into generational poverty and surrounded by a sense of hopelessness, they need to see that there is another way to live so they can begin to hope and dream for something better.  He strongly supports mixed income living.  The TIIN model is intentionally set up to include economic and cultural diversity.  Opportunities to hear each other’s stories are built into the application process.  The goal is to better understand each other and to develop a transparent and encouraging culture that aims to listen to each other and problem solve together.  This will be exciting for some, hard work for others and impossible for those who have decided they already know everything and have nothing to learn.

The TIIN model can be both a mission and a stepping stone for everyone involved.  The TIIN is a microcosm of organized intentional neighboring.  It is for individuals able to give and receive love and support.  It is not for people unable to listen.  It can be for people willing to acknowledge they have a hard time trusting and being transparent-but are willing to try

Without trying to delve too deep into this, I believe we can compare the needs of humans with the basic building block of everything!  The ATOM.  An atom is made up of three parts, protons, neutrons and electrons.  Protons have a positive charge and electrons have a negative charge.  Neutrons are neutral but carry weight.  The protons and neutrons are located centrally and together they are called the nucleus.   The unique positive charge and weight for each of the 118 elements on the periodic table draws electrons to it.   Electrons have a negative charge and are attracted to the positive charge of the atoms .  The important part of the atom is not in an individual part, but rather, in the space of interaction.   Elements with their unique charges combine with other atoms and create new compound chemicals.  Everything we have experienced with our senses is created by substances on the periodic table-including humans!   All of nature is a group of atoms connected by swirls of electric charge!  I believe we can think about human interactions with God, Self and each other in a similar way.  The important part is in the interaction, the dance, the interface, the interdependence, the bonds of love and attraction.  When scientists disturbed the space between atomic particles, a bomb of destruction was the result-an atomic bomb.  Instead of creating something new, there was destruction.

When individuals in a community experience inequity and injustice-disorder and destruction result.  The disorder will remain-until love, safety, resources and opportunities are justly available to all.  The interaction between us is what matters.  To stop the disorder, we must listen with an openness to learn.  History explains why we are where we are today.  The good news-it  is possible to move forward together!

Please read the following quote from Martin Luther King  written in 1963. It feels like he is describing today.  Progress has been slow.  Notice what he says about order and justice and peace.
Letter from Birmingham Jail (ext)

By Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 16 April 1963

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

“In spite of my shattered dreams of the past, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause, and with deep moral concern, serve as the channel through which our just grievances would get to the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed. I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South call upon their worshippers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers say, “follow this decree because integration is morally right and the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, “those are social issues with which the gospel has no real concern.”, and I have watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely other-worldly religion which made a strange distinction between body and soul, the sacred and the secular.

So here we are moving toward the exit of the twentieth century with a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail-light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Letter From The Birmingham Jail

April 16, 1963

Thanks for reading!  I would love to hear your thoughts!

Karin S. Krause, RN BSN

ED Hope & A Future III, inc.

 

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