Recently I was asked what I love best about my job.
I could have said writing. I have wanted to be a writer since my second grade teacher, Mrs. Hamilton, complimented me on my bunny haiku and asked me to read it in front of the class. A large, poorly drawn bunny sat on the top half of the page with three short lines at the bottom – 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables. In spite of the fact that I misspelled “bunnys,” Mrs. Hamilton made me believe I was good at something. And over the course of the past 50 or so years, I’ve held onto that.
I do love writing – playing with words and sentence structure, trying to tell an honest story in a compelling way. If paychecks and insurance were irrelevant, I’d probably hole myself up in a room and read and write and nap all day.
But the thing I love best about my job isn’t the writing. It’s the people.
And their willingness to tell me their stories.
I’m not sure my writing can ever do them justice. They are brave and vulnerable and honest.
Can you imagine? They are willing to split open their own souls – to share their pain, their mistakes, their shame – so that you and I can see Christ at work. They are doing what we are all called to do – tell what God has done in our lives.
“Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19
This fall, UGM is featuring five individuals on billboards, TV commercials, radio spots and social media: Mike, Jody, Heather, Martha and Fabian. It isn’t easy for anyone to have their face plastered all over town – let alone next to the words: homeless, damaged, addict, alone.
Their courage makes me think about my own...or perhaps more accurately, my lack of it. How willing am I to be honest about my struggles? To be truly known in a small group, let alone to a city of strangers? Would I let someone put my face on a billboard with a label crossed out next to it? What would that label be? And have I truly left it behind?
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” – Bren Brown
Brené Brown is a social researcher who writes extensively about shame and vulnerability. She says that the cure for shame is to name it, to tell our stories, and to discover in the process that the shame, the labels we carried, no longer define us. Shame loses its power when it is exposed.
The individuals featured in our fall campaign have definitely shown up and let themselves be seen. May they be an example to us all.
Please watch for their stories and join me in praying for them. Click here to watch a video on Jody, our first featured resident.