Human beings are made for real relationship. Unfortunately, we live in a world that makes it all too easy to bypass real relationships. We are more concerned with organizing our personal lives, and keeping things nice and tidy than opening up to that quagmire called real relationship. This thought is further enforced by the fact that all relationships are messy and uncomfortable at first.
It is far easier to make an assumption of how someone would act, or what would be safe, than to wade into the waters of relationship and find out for yourself. There are multiple problems with this; the most devastating being the fact that there individuals out there who need you and who need you to be in a relationship with them.
In the work we do here at Urban Alliance, we meet a wide variety of people; every one of them is unique. I can say that because I know them. However if you looked at those we encounter on the streets, in our housing program and through our job readiness program, you could probably fit them all into one, maybe two stereotypes. Stereotypes, you know those neat little categories we put people in to mitigate our personal risk?
Do you see the disconnect?
We are missing the individual, we are missing making someone feel important enough to know his or her name, and we are missing the point of life.
I was looking at the statistics of our Momentum Program today; 97% of those in the program have a criminal past, but each one is an individual made for relationship. 81% have current substance abuse issues, but again each one is an individual designed for relationship. 90% come from single-parent households and 74% are parents themselves, and again each one was designed for relationship.
I was asked the other day, what can be done to help those with criminal backgrounds, you know what I said? Have a larger portion of the community engaged in relationship with them. Why? Simple really, when you enter a relationship you stop seeing a group, and you start seeing the individual. You stop assuming and start knowing. This applies to both sides of the relationship.
Statistics may give us a glimpse into a life, but behind these statistics are real people with amazing stories. The risk in real relationship is that our preconceived notions fall apart, our excuses for engagement disappear, and we are left with this beautiful mess. And that beautiful mess is what is also known as relationship.
So my challenge to you is this, the next time you see someone who could easily be lumped into a group, take the time to initiate a conversation with them; and then a relationship. See the individual and choose the risk involved to become part of the solution. This world has enough problems. It’s time WE chose to be a solution. Relationship is a solution.
If you would like help in taking that risk and becoming part of the solution, there are several opportunities to volunteer at Urban Alliance where we are Embracing, Engaging and Empowering People in Urban Communities. Take a risk today! Volunteer!
~ Luke Kujacznski, Executive Director