Happy New Year!!! I love this photo! My first thought on seeing it was, “That poor tree! I can relate. That is what it feels like trying to build the first Therapeutic, Interactive, Intergenerational, Neighborhood (TIIN)!” The passion to do it never let up, but the roadblocks just kept coming! Yet, suddenly we see the light!
I am in my office typing this blog with only one hand as my grandson sleeps cradled in my other arm. Until now, I had no idea I could type with one hand! Many of us have had to stretch into new realms on this journey! In spite of all we have worked through, I still worry about something very basic–do people really understand what we are working to do?
After I wrote the blog that included quotes from the book, Hillbilly Elegy, I received calls from people saying, “Now I feel like I really understand what this neighborhood is all about!” The same happened after people read the book Neighbors: the power of the people next door by Brenda Krause Eheart. I feel that if people read those books, along with Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, Bridges Out of Poverty by Ruby Payne, and Caste The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilerson–folks will at least know what I was watching happen around me when the vision for the TIIN came and understand that I came to many of the same conclusions these writers have come to.
I watched the despair of loneliness and poverty in old age and in the young families paid (poorly) to provide their care. I saw the meaninglessness and loneliness of aging in an institutional setting and the injustice of being treated with disdain because of skin color, economic status or being single with children–because the father moved on. I saw people referred to by their room number rather than their name and watched them as they were fed pureed food through large syringes because it was too slow to use utensils. I saw people thrown into bed without warning and left in dark rooms without anyone showing care or concern. I saw children left alone and afraid while their Mothers tried to work to keep them housed and fed–and I personally knew what it felt like to be one of those children. At the same time I realized that it is only in the context of unconditional loving relationships that people can begin to heal from a world of trauma. And I was aware that loving relationships take time. So developing a place for diverse people to safely and intentionally get to know each other’s stories and work together on accomplishing goals and enjoying life seemed like an obvious step to take. In our fractured country, it seems like an ever increasingly important step to take! To build equity for all, we first need to know what people have come through. To look at a group and make judgements does not work. People are not a group problem, they are individuals with stories and potential! We must work together to identify unhelpful and untrue ways of thinking that have gotten in the way of all individuals having equal access to hope and a future.
Hope & A Future is finally on the cusp of moving forward with a built model designed to engage individuals in diverse and intergenerational relationships. I believe intentional helping relationships are the balm needed to begin to heal fractured individuals and ultimately our country. Healthy loving relationships are what really matter in life. Without them, life feels, smells and tastes like sawdust. With them, we experience grace, forgiveness, love, hope and joy–disappointments are buffered and we experience all of this together!
Committed loving relationships are a bit of a lost art in our self-centered culture. I often hear people talking about relationships in terms of what a person will gain from entering the relationship. Will it help “me” reach my goals or will it ask something of me? The concern is with boundaries. If a person is in an abusive relationship–boundaries are valid concerns. However, if every relationship is looked at in this way, relationships become more of a narcissistic self-serving arrangement than a loving experience. Loving relationships are at times, actually more of a commitment than a feeling. However, when we decide to move into helping relationships–we regularly find ourselves surprised by joy! Americans have moved so far from understanding loving relationships that loneliness and depression are national epidemics. The big surprise is that giving really is better than receiving–because giving hope or joy to another person causes an explosion of joy in the giver! So how do we teach the lost art of relationships? We start by closing our mouths and listening to other people’s stories. Stories paint pictures and bring understanding of the life other’s have lived. Understanding helps us make sense of behavior and gives us insight into how to reach out with patience. Long term commitment to nurturing growth in another person is how love grows. And when people know they are loved, they will flourish.
We have all kinds of helpful words to describe the process of helping someone grow. Trauma informed care, building resilience and creating support systems. It turns out that all of these can be done through the power of the engaged people next door! And that is what Hope & A Future is all about!
We will soon be taking an updated plan for Hope & A Future’s expansion for approvals and if we are on the mark–I will share it with you soon! The plan includes seven more apartments than originally planned, but it is absolutely beautiful! So stay tuned! This may be the year Hope & A Future flourishes!
Happy New Year!