Community. Community has happened. We have built this amazing community of people. They come to the food truck, and they eat and visit with each other and with us. They talk to us on Facebook and encourage each other when they can. We have been told we are beloved members of some of the neighborhoods where we serve food. We have received cards and pictures and all kinds of crafts and loving messages. We have watched single moms get to know each other - and form support systems to help each other through the rocky times, and to cheer for each other in the great times.
Change. We have seen change. We have observed change in some of the systems that are in place to help people. Recently, we were at an event where we heard representatives from other organizations giving presentations. As we listened, we noticed that the tone of these presentations has changed. The words are softer, and the approaches toward helping others sounded very - well - "Torchy" to me. In fact, Sarah whispered, "Everyone is copying us." I replied, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." I am filled with joy at the thought that we have influenced those in other organizations to realize that people are people are people, no matter what has happened in their lives.
I've been pondering that change, and I think I know what has happened. Sarah and I have very publicly put a face on poverty. One time, I gave an English class I was teaching an assignment. They were to read a poorly-written article about Sarah and I and the Torch. I wasn't ready for their response. I wanted to know where the run-on and fragment sentences were. What places were examples of bad grammar, and where were the punctuation errors? Instead, the room became very silent. I finally asked if someone could point out the first error.
One of the men in the class hesitantly raised his hand and said, "It says you were homeless." I said, "I was." The silence continued as everyone awkwardly avoided commenting or making eye-contact with me. That's not the first time that has happened. People sometimes take a step back when I mention my period of homelessness. I've heard it and seen it when Sarah and I have presented together. We've put a face on it - and it could be anyone. That's a reality which is difficult to accept, but we have been saying it so much and for so long to anyone and everyone who will listen, and, I think we humanized it. That makes me happy.
Now, we are working with the 180 students. They are people who struggle with disabilities, but we don't focus on that. We focus on all the things they can do, and the bar of our expectation is high. And often, when we talk to people about the individuals we are working with - there are awkward moments. Somebody even told me that we would have to keep our prices low because the food our students made would be sub-par. Four years from now, I hope I am writing a blog about how the face of the individuals in our society who have disabilities has changed.
Could be another one of those unexpected results...