You Can’t Build Community without People

There is no investment that pays better dividends or is more satisfying than investing in the lives’ of people.

giftMonths of meetings followed by another three months of organizing, coordinating efforts and overtime were culminating in this one moment.

Christmas Day at the shelter

1500 meals of turkey and all the trimmings were being served downstairs. Musicians were entertaining the crowd of people as they ate one, then two, and sometimes even three servings of Christmas dinner.

Santa was there too handing out gifts like warm socks filled with hygiene supplies, backpacks containing a blanket and travel mugs filled with packets of just-add-water hot chocolate and soup.

Upstairs previously homeless people who were living in transitional housing were also celebrating Christmas. Thirty residents had written out wish lists and hundreds of donors had mobilized to fill them. Following is Andrew’s story.

She knocked on Andrew’s door. He opened the door. She asked if she could come in for a moment. He moved to the side and with a sweeping motion of his arm he invited her to sit at the table. A quiet man, a bit of a loner; the years on the streets had not been kind and Andrew looked older than his years.

He made tea for them. She thanked him and reached down into the bag she’d brought with her. Even though Andrew had not filled out his wish list, she pulled out a small wrapped gift, placed it on the table and pushed it toward him. Surprised, he looked at her and then quickly down at his hands in his lap.

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

He stood up, walked to the window and looked out into the street.

“Are you OK? Did I do something wrong?”

She got up and put her hand on his shoulder.

“Andrew?”

A single tear ran down his weathered cheek.

“I’m fine..it’s just that…well no one has ever given me a present before…”

~

Andrew’s story is based on a first-person account shared with me and is just one story of hundreds happening every day.  When people ask me what community looks like, I say it looks like this. 

The Other Bottom Line wants to share your tips on engaging community or one of your community stories. To share your story on The Other Bottom Line, click the Share Your Story tab at the top of the page.

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