Everyone has a story and our job is to listen.
A few decades years after the Civil War, Clara White, a former slave, saw a need and took action in her Jacksonville, Florida neighborhood. Some of her neighbors did not have enough to eat. So, she fed what she could to whom she could. A mission took hold.
Fast forward to the 1930s and the beginning of the Great Depression. Carrying the mission forward, Clara’s daughter, Eartha, began moving the mission from a soup kitchen to a community development center. Today the Clara White Mission feeds, houses, educates, and ministers to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the homeless, low-income, and veterans in need.
CEO/President of the CWM, Ms. Ju’ Coby Pittman, told me that each client arrives at the front door “broken, with a laundry bag of challenges,” and in need of someone to believe in and assist them. They need a community of resources.
But how does an agency ministering to the needs of a transient population develop a sense of community? Is that even possible? Pittman told me it comes down to one core value. Trust.
Trust does not come from words in a mission statement. It grows from authentic relationships having relevant conversations about people’s rainbows. Often, clients do not believe the CWM can do what it says it can. “How does someone care this much about me?” they wonder. Enter the trust building process.
The staff members have regular conversations with clients. Recognizing that everyone’s situation is different, the CWM support system connects with the person as an individual. Once the clients are enrolled and basic survival needs met, they start to see what is possible. They begin to see the relevance of the CWM services to their lives. Rather than passive observers, the clients remain actively involved in their journey. The CWM shares the mission and history of the center with clients. The staff listen to the clients, which in turn makes them feel engaged in the process. Trust builds. They hear from the “alumni” of the CWM programs tell about their respective journeys. Those stories resonate with the lives of the new clients. Relevance.
The mission expects them to give back when they get on their feet. The clients become part of the partnership and they, in turn, help new clients see the relevance in what the CWM does each day for each client.
In fact, Pittman shared that the mission provides “a hand up, not a hand out.” They give back to the community. With unbridled enthusiasm, Pittman states, “It’s not a job; it’s a ministry…this is my purpose. Everyone has a story and our job is to listen. What we think might be best for them, might not be the best for them.”
Mark Twain reportedly said that the two most important days of a person’s our lives are the day we are born and the day we discover why we were born.
Pittman said she finds her “why,” the relevance for what she does in the motto of Clara and Ertha White:
Do all the good you can,
In all the ways you can,
For all the people you can,
And all the places you can,
While you can.
That is relevant. That forms trust. And it builds community.
Video recommendation for the week.
Click here to hear and see the power of The Miracle on Ashley Street. Think of the miracles that can happen in your community when people come together, trust one another, and build programs of support and relevance.
Make it an inspiring and grateful week and H.T.R.B. as needed.
For information about and to order my book, Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here. A number of colleges and one state-wide agency have adopted it for training and coaching purposes. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same.
The paperback price on Amazon is now $14.99 and the Kindle version stands at $5.99.
Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).
(c) 2018. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.