The tools we carry: Heart, hands, head and ears

Beyond working for tax-exempt organizations, what does it mean to be of use to our communities and the people we serve? With jargon like logic models, evidence-based, and scalable impact flying around, it can be easy to gloss over the root of the change we seek – people and places better off, community created, justice minted.

My prompt on that question came two weeks ago in the form of Jim. After helping out as a volunteer at an event, he needed a lift home. For Jim, home meant a residential facility housing him while he focused on recovery from substance abuse. We spent the car ride talking about his life and how he’d lost his family, his sobriety, and most of his dignity, living destitute for 15 years on the streets of SF’s Tenderloin.

Jim relied on social services, panhandling, and whatever else it took to survive. I asked what would help most in his new drive to improve his situation. “A chance to feel useful. To get treated like a human being. Just to have people look at you like you’re a member of the human race. Just to be listened to, you know?”

He relied on others for food and shelter. Most of his teeth were gone. But what did he really want? Acknowledgement, affirmation and opportunity. Not easy to roll-up in an annual report or track on a dashboard, but worthy nonetheless.

As hurricane of holiday season arrives, Jim’s message sticks. Services are great, and sometimes dignified person-to-person connections are even better. That’s work worth doing. Here’s to honoring those all-powerful tools we carry with us every day: heart, hands, head… and ears.