Hope, Struggle, and Transformation
Last month, a group of residents, alumni, staff, and friends of Project HOME gathered at our Kate’s Place residence for Café 25, one in a series of nights of storytelling that are being held throughout 2014 to mark our 25th Anniversary year. Several residents shared their personal stories, and the stories were powerful, indeed.
While they came from different backgrounds and situations, their stories echoed with some common threads – family struggles, abuse, addiction, physical and mental health crises, homelessness, prison, despair, suicide attempts. It was almost overwhelming to hear such a cascade of human suffering and struggle.
But the stories had other common threads – each person had come through. Each story teller spoke of turning points and key persons who were catalysts for change. They recounted journeys of recovery and coming to health. Each person bore witness to the kindness of strangers and the grace of God. And they all spoke of homecoming – coming into a place at Project HOME, finding a supportive community, regaining a sense of dignity and worth. They are now working, volunteering, giving back, advocating, finding creative outlets for music and art. They speak openly and urgently of the need for understanding and compassion.
We live in an age marked by cynicism. It feels like our political system is utterly dysfunctional, and the economic promise of the American Dream is sputtering and failing. Our social problems seem intractable, our social rhetoric is poisoned, our culture is marred by shallow materialism and superficial values.
For 25 years at Project HOME, we have known a very different truth. And that is why one of the themes we are lifting up during this 25th Anniversary year is Transformation.
Daily, our residents witness to the reality of transformation. They are living testimonies to the resilience and power of the human spirit. They also bear witness to what is possible when persons make choices to change their lives, and when we bring together vision, know-how, and resources to solve daunting problems. They embody the power of hope – and in doing so, they are offering our society an invaluable gift.
Transformation is not limited to personal stories. A block that was once pockmarked by blighted houses is now fully renovated and inhabited. An unsightly vacant lot is now a gleaming new four-story residence. A neighborhood weighed down by poverty sees a generation of young people going to college and building new futures. A city that was once paralyzed by growing numbers of persons chronically homeless in Center City is now boldly talking about ending street homelessness.
Nor is transformation simply something we see in those persons and communities who have borne the weight of great social and public woundedness. The deepest truth we touch at Project HOME is that ultimately all of us experience transformation. Staff members, volunteers, donors, trustees – all of us need transformation, and all of us are in touch with that transformative reality by being part of the community of Project HOME. We need to be freed from the shackles of all kinds of addiction, of false values, of cynicism and apathy. We experience being transformed to a deeper and richer understanding of what it means to be human, as we share our brokenness and our gifts. We are transformed to a new vision of our connectedness in a human community that is not stratified or eviscerated by the various forms of social segregation that normally keep us apart.
The stories that were shared at the recent Café 25 point to a profound mystery: By entering into the truthfulness of our common struggles, we come to a powerful and binding sense of hope, and that hope is the seed of transformation which might otherwise not be possible.
At Café 25, Vince Angelico of Kate’s Place, in sharing his story, insisted that the struggles he went through could befall anyone. “But we don’t need to let the past define us. There is hope for everyone.” And when we hear stories like Vince’s, hope arises in us – hope for transformation of ourselves and of our world.
Share Our Stories: If you want to share a story of transformation – your own, or one you’ve witnessed – please share it with us. Go to https://projecthome.org/share-your-story and write your story.