Last fall, I was asked to write blogs for Cape Fear Living Magazine. I approached blogging with excitement, but also anxiety, as I opened up about myself and the lives of my friends. This opportunity gave me the chance to articulate my feelings in a public way and stretched me as a writer. There were times where I wanted to use this amazing forum as a soapbox, but I quickly learned that to reach many groups of people with my message, I had to be careful not to dismiss individuals just because their ideas were different than mine. I did my best to speak in love, grace, compassion, and really listen to the conversation. I also realized that change comes in small steps; the shift happens gradually, not all at once. I wanted to show Wilmington a different way of thinking about poverty by offering invitation and challenging the standard way of thinking. These blogs are a direct attempt to deconstruct the cultural barriers of charity and live out that tension. So, what is the next step? What more can I say? How can we create change? As I have reminded all of us countless times, the foundation is all about RELATIONSHIPS!
If we’re going to truly be a community, we must first understand that it will only thrive through relationships with others. Throughout the past twelve months we’ve covered the following topics:
With each of these blogs, we laid the groundwork on how to build community with the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in the city. My hope is that when uncomfortable feelings and emotions rise up, you lean into them and embrace the change. Shifting our thinking is not something that comes natural, it has to be intentional, and it’s a lot of hard work. The end goal for me is not to feed the needs of the general public by simply taking “the homeless” and moving them “out of sight and out of mind” or keeping the status quo. I want to help those less fortunate feel more connected to the community. My ultimate goal is to one day see our friends become landscapers, mail deliverers, chefs, and find other occupations throughout Wilmington. My hope for everyone who reads “The Shift” is to change the conversation so that it welcomes and stimulates friendship with those experiencing poverty.
How can we move ourselves toward a posture of friendship? How can we constantly look for ways to create space for those who seem to be invisible? To erase poverty, an hour of volunteering or writing checks are not going to solve the problem. Building relationships with those experiencing poverty is paramount, not this polite disconnect of “homeless people” and “people with traditional homes and jobs” camps. It’s going to take us as a community – as a city – rather than handing it off as a problem for someone else. Because if we sit around and let the agencies do all the work, is that really community? If the transformation to relationships is done right, it will cause you stress as you leave your comfort bubble. Creating this shift will require us to go above and beyond a mere surface level volunteer opportunity to “help” people experiencing poverty. We can make the change by deconstructing the existing conditions, such as attending city hall meetings, voting in elections, questioning the system, and walking alongside those who are the most vulnerable in society. If this seems overwhelming, I would love to meet you for coffee and discuss more ways to get you connected within the community. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the coming months, I will be shifting these blogs from explanatory to narratives, so that you may get an up close and personal glimpse into the world of poverty. These stories will reveal a lot truths that you might not have been exposed to before now. I will explain the realities of living in Wilmington without a phone, identification card, or the basic necessities of life, and how difficult it is to obtain resources and break the cycle of poverty. I will also talk about success stories of how our friends beat the odds, and in turn, offered hope and stability to others. These stories will serve as a way to connect real people to the issues plaguing our community.
I’d also like to announce that we will have a Walking Tall Open House on Saturday, September 8th, 2018 from 10am-1pm at 137 Elder Drive in Wilmington (Ogden area). We will offer tours of the Garden (of Eatin’), rock painting, a community meal, and informational sessions. This is a great way for the whole family to learn more about Walking Tall Wilmington.
For more information check out our Facebook page www.facebook.com/walkingtallwilmington