It’s still my knee-jerk reaction when I hear about or see the challenges that are being faced by so many people in our neighbourhood; I wish I had some money. Intellectually I know that throwing money at problems isn’t the long-term solution. But it’s not an intellectual reaction when I hear about the lady who used to be a nurse until she slipped on the ice and suffered some brain damage that prevents her from doing it any longer. Now she lives in much-reduced circumstances on disability and helps out all the bachelors in her building. Or the family who’s losing their house over a few payments. Or the man who walks, apparently from city to city, and curls into a ball every ten feet cause he “can’t live in a world like this.” I hear ya brother.
I see the magic of people coming together at the South Sherman Hub, how so often grant applications aren’t necessary because the needs can be met by the people in the room; I’ve got a space you can use for free; I’ve got pedometers for your members; I could run your lab while using it to get my business started… It’s remarkable this coming together. Sharing.
Just about everything in the cafe has come together or come into being because someone built it, donated it or fixed it. Strangely, except for the sign which is one of the few things we have paid for upfront (from Sarah’s tips and community contributions) and which is about 6 weeks late. With everything else there is a feeling of giving and of gratitude and of building an ongoing relationship. Of building not only a sense of community, but a community. Whereas with the sign, it’s a one-shot deal. Though I have mentioned that we are bleeding money and that people who are trying to find us can’t, I guess the stakes are pretty low – it’s just a transaction.
I have learned a great deal in a few short (long!) months in the cafe. My early priority was staffing; as much about creating jobs as the fact that I already had my own job and hadn’t planned to be here all day. But I have now realized that salary money has to come from revenue or it isn’t sustainable. If I had started the cafe with money instead of with community, the money would all be gone by now yet the community remains.
So I am trying to find the sign analogy regarding all the needs in the neighbourhood; that somehow people doing what they can for each other will prove to be more rewarding than paying each others bills.
Maybe what we all need is more relationships and fewer transactions.