We’ve had quite a few kudos from guests at Ending Homelessness Together, our annual fundraising lunch.
The food was good, the parking was ample, the program ran smoothly.
But the warm response wasn’t about how well-orchestrated things were (though surely starting and ending on time is a virtue). No – guests mostly remarked on the stories shared by two former Beacon tenants.
Garlicia and John took the time to thoughtfully prepare remarks, work with our staff to edit and rehearse.
It takes months to prepare for this event – months when they could have gotten cold feet, or decided we were asking too much, or decided they didn’t want to be so vulnerable to share some of their darkest days with a crowd of, oh, about a thousand people.
The popular professor, researcher and author Brene Brown writes and speaks about vulnerability and shame. Many Americans perceive vulnerability as a sign of weakness, and that triggers a sense of shame, which in turn makes us want to hide what hurts.
Instead, Brown believes, vulnerability is a sign of strength. I saw that strength in action in the weeks, days and even minutes leading up to our program as our speakers made their final preparations and overcame obstacles – transportation, work and family commitments, fear of public speaking – in order to do their part to help make life better for others who are where they were a few years ago – in need of a home and a caring community of support.
John said American House was a stepping stone to maintaining sobriety (for six years now) that has eventually led him to reconnect with his sons and grandchildren he didn’t see for years because of homelessness and addiction.
Garlicia, thrust out of the nest too early because of her mother’s illness and job loss, has grown into a confident, accomplished young woman building a career. Nicollet Square gave her the safety and support to blossom and tap her own inner strength.
“At times I count my blessings and I catch myself counting Nicollet Square twice,” she said.
We saw two strong, resilient people up there at the podium, people with a light from within – people unafraid to ask for help, make difficult changes, learn new ways to live their best life.
“I am here because you believed in me, and I believe in Beacon,” John said.
We do believe in you, John and Garlicia. Thank you for helping 1,000 people believe in home.
If you couldn't join us at this year's lunch, you can see our video featuring John, Garlicia and Kunisha, who did not speak at the event but is a former shelter guest.