By Alexa Priddy, Director of Community Engagement
Small tasks feel too big or insurmountable. You tell yourself your goals are no longer attainable. You feel you aren’t worth saving. You feel you’ve gotten yourself too far into trouble to climb out. Or perhaps, you simply feel hopeless and can’t put words to how or why.
These feelings are part of all of us as our human condition. We go through bouts of negativity or depression, and yet, for most, what ebbs starts to again flow. For guests at St. John’s, I’ve seen all of these emotions, as a staff person who is often on the periphery of the daily support for our guests. Even small successes, like a week of sobriety, feel like the ultimate failure when the addiction takes hold again. Years of compounded trauma, addiction, untreated mental health and broken family systems are common. Many guests have lost their resiliency, the ability to “bounce back” from the inevitable life upset. What could appear to be a simple setback to you or me feels like a weight that will never let up. I see tears well up, at times, in sadness and anger.
In addition, I see daily the impact of weakened or non-existent social capital. Social capital refers to the support systems we have in healthy family networks, supportive friends, encouraging workplaces and civic and spiritual engagement. When someone has these lifelines crumble away, or never had much of them in the first place, their ability to be resilient is diminished.
I see, for our guests, all of this mounting up to a deficit in hope. And like the feeling of hopelessness, hope itself can always be restored.
I like to think that is why someone’s path leads them to St. John’s. Whether they overtly know or not, there is a deficit in hope, a need for hope to be restored, that is connected to the barriers that led to homelessness. When I see staff and volunteers motivate, support, connect and care for guests, I see hope being restored. The social capital they have grows as they are part of the St. John’s family of love and accountability. Guest resiliency increases as they experience connection with their case managers and have success in breaking down life barriers. For some, it is the excitement of a new job that offers the specific shift hours they’ve been wanting. For others, I hear about finally getting medications right or reconnecting with their children. What happens at St. John’s, for those who are wanting the opportunities, is a chance for hope to again be part of life.
If you are reading this and are someone who has thought about donating, volunteering or sponsoring, I want you to know that your time, talents and treasures are touching people’s lives at a level that is beyond the social service mantra of “service provision.” We don’t walk a one-way street of providing a service to someone: the analogy of filling an empty vessel I’ve sometimes heard. The guests who come to St. John’s are not empty waiting for us to help. They are full, complex people who need someone to walk alongside them, to care, to support and empower. So when you become part of our St. John’s family, you are part of this greater force of people supporting and caring for one another – guests, staff, volunteers and donors alike – who are here to help restore hope and, ultimately, to create lasting change in our Green Bay community.
If you have not already, I hope you will join us: www.iamstjohns.org.