A few years ago I attended the ‘No Need Among You’ conference hosted by Travis Park UMC in San Antonio. Its focus was on the homeless and needy in our communities. I found myself captivated by the storytellers who brought to my attention the plight of the homeless. One story I’ve never forgotten involved a gentleman who was kicked out of his home at the age of eight when his mother married a man who didn’t want another man’s child in his house. Somehow this child grew to manhood on the streets of Austin by panhandling and cleaning windshields. That’s how he came to the attention of a pastor and became a valued member of a community of formerly homeless. One day when he didn’t come out of his tiny house, they found him very ill and rushed him to a hospital. As word got out that he was dying, people came and surrounded his bed, singing hymns, holding his hands, and telling him they loved him. He died surrounded by love from his ‘family’ and peace from the Father who never abandoned him. His story was told.
As a member of the board of Unity37, a non-profit focused on Prosperemos Juntos/Thriving communities, we are reaching out to the community around our church, Bethel UMC, to become one with the community and to help them grow and thrive. We are asking the community members for their stories. We want to know from them what they like about their community and what they don’t like. We want to know what they would like to see for their community. We want to know what they want their legacy to be for the generations yet to come. We want to know their stories.
I am also a resident member of the board of Alamo Community Group (ACG). ACG is a unique housing organization that wants to give residents the tools they need to succeed. We are a private, non-profit, 501(c)3 organization that provides affordable housing in a community setting. We offer many programs that will help our residents to grow and become successful. One of our programs is called, ‘House Our Heroes’. Through our work with various partnerships in the San Antonio area, formerly homeless veterans now have a place to call home.
At our recent 2023 planning & strategy meeting we decided we are not telling our story enough. Outside of people from whom we hope to acquire funding and other partners in our network, no one really knows about ACG. We have decided we are going to start telling our stories. Stories like the three now-occupied apartments in my building that house three veterans and their families. Telling the stories of how we took care of each other during Winter Storm URI in 2021 when we had no lights for 42 hours. Sharing the stories of our successful learning centers where children and families have access to food, internet, and assistance to receive city and state services. We decided if people and organizations knew that we do more than house people, they would be more willing to partner with us, especially during these difficult times.
Every community has stories. Those stories shape the community as it is now and could be in the ‘hoped for’ future. So, tell your stories. Invite others to tell their stories. Shape a future that has not lost the story, but used that story for transformation.
Be blessed, everyone.