A Place to Be Neighborly
At Main Street Mission our teams of volunteers show up week after week to do their part in our operation. They come from different walks of life, male, female, old and young. Many have been coming every week for years. We have the Monday group, the Tuesday group, the Thursday group and the Friday group. Some help stock shelves of food, some help distribute food to our neighbors, some sign neighbors up on our computer system. All of them have smiling faces and words of encouragement for the folks they help support.
Over the years Main Street Mission has become a small community where friendly faces meet friendly faces. We have an intake process but we don’t distinguish between the person struggling for a week and the one who has spent a lifetime of struggle. We don’t have clients or customers. We are all neighbors. Yes, our neighbors get food but we have discovered that food is not the essence of what they get. Sometimes that word of encouragement from our staff or a volunteer is the one thing that can light a spark of hope for someone who previously considered their situation hopeless. Sometimes visiting with a neighbor picking up food makes the day of a volunteer or staff member.
These small exchanges of kindness have grown into a formal process with our Getting Ahead classes and our Bridges classes. We have found with the system developed by Ruby Payne that we can bring teams through the Getting Ahead program and link them with Hope teams from our Bridges program. People that previously had no hope are starting to make progress towards a more stable life. The boundaries are dissolving and Hope Teams, Volunteers, Getting Ahead participants and Neighbors are all friends. We have started new projects and initiatives, Tracy Gilbert has brought new counseling services. We are looking into classes and work groups. We have outgrown our boundaries both socially and physically. This is why we need your help.
Recently David Brooks of the New York Times wrote an editorial entitled “One Neighborhood at a Time”. He notes that political parties are polarized, people seem isolated and lost in their own worlds, Churches are losing attendance. We seem lost and bitter at times. David talks about a couple in Lost Hills, California that have started a community center where they are trying to bring the community together. He talks about the “dozens who have come to Lost Hills not to save the place from outside, but to befriend it.”
At Main Street Mission we believe that the way forward is not to look for a new Walmart, Hitachi or plant to replace Tuscarora. We have what we need right here; creative, helpful people. This is a new beginning!
As David Brooks sums up:
What’s the right level to pursue social repair? The nation may be too large. The individual is too small. The community is the right level, picking a piece of land and giving people a context in which they can do neighborly things — like the dads here who came to the pre-K center and spent six hours building a shed, and with it, invisibly, a wider circle of care for their children