Roots and Branches: Our Alumni
Many years ago, one of our residents, Richard Brown, was sharing his story with a group of students. “When you see me here today,” he said, “You would never think I was once on the streets, addicted, lost, dirty, hopeless. The people who passed by me on the streets back then probably assumed that that was who I was – a homeless drug addict. But it wasn’t – it was just one moment in my life, a period of real struggle. I had a whole life before that time that nobody could see. They also couldn’t see the person I would become later.”
Richard went on to tell the students, “So when you see someone on the streets today, just realize – that’s not the whole of who that person is. They are more than that. And a lot of change can happen in his or her life – just like it happened in mine.”
Years later, Richard’s wisdom still rings with deep truth. Most of us pass people living on the street. We might be moved by their plight. We shudder at the terrible circumstances we see them living through. And it can be hard to see beyond that. Only a few of us get to see what it is like when their talents and potential are tapped and they have a chance to blossom.
Project HOME’s Resident Alumni Program (see “Continuing the Journey,” page 1) shines a light on the pathway out of homelessness and enables us to see that people who once experienced homelessness are us. They are heads of households, friends, voters, artists, employees, taxpayers. They are civic-minded people working to make our city and nation a better place to live, work, and raise a family. When one of our alumni gives a presentation or volunteers on a committee or works at a job using skills and experience to help others, it is a teachable moment for all of us. As Richard challenged the students years ago, we must learn that when we see a person at their most vulnerable or broken, we must also open our eyes and hearts to that person’s strengths, gifts, and potential. None of us want to be judged or defined by our weakest moment – so we must not inflict that on others.
Our alumni are living witnesses of transformation. They invite us to look beyond the surface of a person in the midst of struggle and look with eyes of hope. They remind us of all that is possible – in ourselves and in others. They are signposts to all of us, pointing us toward home.