For several months now, the Mobile Loaves and Fishes staff have been reading and reflecting on Jim Collins’ book Good to Great. We’ve debated about the exact nature of the MLF “flywheel” and whether we have “the right people on the bus” as well as many other Good-to-Greatisms. But of all that Collins wrote - and Alan may disagree with me on this - I don’t know that there is any thought from Good to Great that has so effectively penetrated the Mobile Loaves and Fishes organization as the pursuit of finding “what we can be the best in the world at.” Ultimately, this is a debate about the MLF central idea. What are we really (really) about?
In our internal conversations, a word that seems to describe the collective wind within the MLF sails pretty well is hospitality. We are not merely a food and clothes provider, nor solely a relational and resource provider for our brothers and sisters living on the streets. When we get right down to the thing that keeps us laying in bed awake at night, for many of us, our thoughts seem to always drift back to the idea of home-making: what is it and how can we foster it?
Of course when we began, most of us already thought we knew the answer to these two simple questions. Eight months ago, I moved into a trailer within one of the Habitat on Wheels (HOW) RV communities and didn’t think twice about telling my friends and family what that program was all about. HOW is a housing program for chronically homeless people in Austin (what is it…solved!) whereby generous patrons supply the money for a fifth-wheel RV trailer for them to live in (How can we foster it…solved!). Eight months, many tears and painful conversations later, I am less convinced I know what a home - or true hospitality - really is.
What do I mean by this last line? I mean that I have witnessed good friends of mine within the community move from being homeless, to housed, to deeply residing “at home” within our community; and then to being only housed, and ultimately homeless again. In the few circumstances this has occurred, it has been terrible to watch. What did their “housing” have to do with their “home”? Absolutely everything! But not all aspects of their “home-fulness” were present when they were simply being housed. Something additional was present at one point in these residents lives - something magical - that, for a variety of reasons was snuffed out, leaving tired individuals to once again orient their lives according to the heavily wounded and chronically underfunded resources of their homeless heart.
The real fact is that we haven’t got it right yet, but that doesn’t mean we’re not on the right path. With your help we’ll get one step closer each day.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. What is the essence of “home” and how can we help foster it for our brothers and sisters on the street and in the Habitat on Wheels program?