Every Tuesday morning, I pick up items from our Despensa de la Paz food pantry for our sister organization, StreetLife Communities, a homeless outreach program that meets the needs of individuals living on the streets in Milwaukee. One particular Tuesday, as I struggled to get out of bed to start with my daily tasks, a thought sparked in my head.
I remembered the previous week as I was driving down 22nd St., as I do almost every week, and I saw the familiar face of a woman I’ve worked with through StreetLife. An oxytocin chemical was released inside of me and I started to wave and smile at this friendly face. When she saw me, this woman was doing the same thing, waving and laughing. It was a joyful encounter and it made me think about the importance of being known.
To know and be known is a relationship. At the center of every being is a desire to be known. To have our humanity acknowledged, our inherent dignity restored. But unfortunately in this broken world, things come between our relationships with our neighbors. This thing could be shame, prejudice, negative assumptions, or fear. In many of our relationships, we are not known or understood in the way we wish. And for many of the community members we work with, it’s all too common for them never to be fully seen by others, never to be fully recognized. People live on the margins every day, excluded from meaningful relationships with society. At Friedens and StreetLife we are doing the work to show people that they are known. They matter. We are restoring hope in individuals who have been persecuted and judged their whole lives. We are doing heart work everyday.
On the days that I am struggling, I try to remind myself that I get to know so many beautiful people. I get to heal a broken heart. The work we do is hard and heart breaking. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Because I get to know someone and they get to know me – we each can be ourselves, and be loved exactly the way we are.
Volunteer and Outreach Manager