I was blessed with a lot of useful life lessons when I was young, thanks to outstanding parents. When you fall off the horse, get right back on. The most important skill in skiing is knowing how to get up. Learn to get up from a fall before you learn to jump. Success is defined by standing up one more time than you fall down. Everybody falls. If you don't fall, you're not challenging yourself. The bike doesn't stand up alone; it needs you.
We all fall. After my pity party on Saturday, I looked at my mistakes and asked opinions of trusted friends. There are several things we can do differently next week, and if that market still isn't a success, there are other venues. The trick is to get back on the horse, try again, innovate, refine, grow. We're already at work preparing for next Saturday.
None of us like falling down. It hurts. It isn't fair. It's discouraging. In talking with staff at the Oregon Food Bank, I learned a lot about the models for emergency food pantries and homeless shelters, the primary recipients of the donations I collect. They are struggling, too.
The pantries are based on a model of non-perishable food. The more we learn about nutrition, the more we realize that canned, dried, processed, and packaged food hold very little nutrition. But fresh food requires careful handling, and it has to move quickly. The dry food pantries are failing their clients, but they're getting back on the horse and learning new ways.
The shelters are up against more complicated problems. The suburban ones are for families in short-term crises. They provide a month or two of shelter, some job re-training, childcare, and connections with low-income housing. They're designed to get people back on their feet when they've run into unexpected troubles. When life deals you a crippling blow once, it may be dramatic and memorable, but it's not insurmountable. People get through it. We learn from it. We do better next time.
The inner city shelters deal with more chronic problems. There are those designated for women & children who have suffered abuse, and they work in partnership with counselors and social programs to help victims heal and move on. And there are the bed-and-a-meal shelters that are too few but at least get some people out of the cold for a night. These two types of shelters can only help people who are willing to get up and help themselves. Again. And again. Sometimes dozens of times. It gets discouraging. Even when someone is ready to ask for help getting back on their feet, the services are limited and the answer is often no.
Is it any wonder that some people become chronically homeless? Add that to the easy availability of alcohol, one of the less expensive crutches people rely on when we feel beaten. One in twelve Americans has a problem with alcohol. When there's no job, no shelter, no shower, no transportation, and all you can own is what you can carry, of course you take whatever crutch presents itself.
I hope that when you see a street person, one who is chronically homeless, you will consider how many times he has fallen down. Would you still be able to get up and start again? Please have a heart for the down-trodden. They've been through a lot.