There are several essential lessons I learned upon my first couple of weeks here at the Love Wins Community Engagement Center:
- Avoid asking a guest about the sports team on their shirt
- Hot coffee is an absolute necessity
- Anything can be used as a bargaining tool
One thing that I was not explicitly told to do, but has possibly become the most important aspect of my job (besides making sure we have hot coffee), is learning the names of our guests.
Our friends here are welcome to come and go as they please, and sometimes we don’t see some of our guests for weeks, maybe even months, at a time. This is part of the beauty of what goes on here at Love Wins. Even if a guest has gone to work across the state or to visit family, when they return to community, it’s as if they never left. In some cases, like in my relationship with Tom, remembering his name after his two month absence was a profound moment for both of us. I admitted that I didn’t remember his name on the spot, and it took me a moment to remember who I was speaking with. But once his name popped up from the back of my mind, he appeared surprised that I’d taken the time to remember his name and face.
He went on to share his good news about a potential job opportunity and about a friendship he’d forged over the past couple of months. I find that remembering a name and then using it, and using it often, elevates the level of community we have achieved here. By doing so, we are able to open up a line of communication that isn’t always open to our guests, and they suffer when that kind of communication isn’t offered to them. This type of interaction is so valuable; knowing someone’s name changes the context around the relationship.
It eliminates strangers. It allows friendships to blossom.
I am learning everyday from our friends here that their names are just as much a part of who they are as my name is a part of me.