In the late afternoon of the last Wednesday of July, social ACTion program hosted the first in what we hope will become a series of Justice Education Events. Beyond CompassionFatigue; an Encouraging Conversation featured guest speaker Barry Zevin, MD. Dr. Zevin of the SFDPH has worked with the homeless and impoverished people of the Tenderloin for 25 years. Our event was attended by St. Anthony volunteers and staff, plus a wide range of community members and providers including Shanti, Gubbio Project, Hospitality House, Project Homeless Connect, YWAM, and SF Dept. of Public Health.
Dr. Barry said we need to remember “the bigger picture—homelessness is not only a San Franciscan issue—it’s a national one.” Dr. Barry said that he maintains by “…doing what I do: I’m a doctor”. He balances care for the marginalized by working both in direct care and in policy work. “But”, he said, “I always do some direct care”. He went on to say, disarmingly that his first reaction to the increase of degradation and suffering we all see on the street isn’t always the best. His first (silent) reaction might be “Why is this person in my way?”, but he reminds himself that “each person has a name”. He also takes a year off for every 10 worked. While this latter is not possible for many of us, the commitment to some kind of restorative respite in our lives is possible, even if that’s making some time each week for dancing for example, or for walking on the beach, whatever it may be —the point is to have some dedicated time for personal relaxation and renewal.
Although this event was not about “solutions” or “grievances and divided points of view”, Dr. Zevin said that in order for real change to happen, we need to move toward a family model (of community). He spoke about the experience of talking with older generations about homelessness, and they would always say “Oh, we had a person like that in our town…”, and that person was taken care of by the community.
John Hardin, OFM, Provincial and ED Emeritus of St. Anthony’s once told us that we all need “the three S’s to do this work: some kind of spirituality, self-care, and a sense of humor!” I was reminded of that sage advice as I listened to Dr. Zevin. His advocacy for a “family model of community” brought Francis of Assisi to mind as well. Francis referred to everything and everyone in kindred terms and even beyond human-to-human relationship to include “Brother Wolf, Sister Moon,” and so forth.
We are in this together, as demonstrated by the diversity of attendance at this “Beyond Compassion Fatigue…, and Dr. Barry’s hope for a thriving community of the human family underscores that! Please stay tuned for a follow-up discussion on this initial subject and for Justice Education Events in the future.
Pace e Bene, and here’s to a Healing Home & Community for one and all!