August 14, 2014

A Reflection from one of the Firm Believers Crew

The following guest post is from Violetta Pavlovna Remeslova, about her work with The Well's Firm Believers outreach in and around Downtown Tampa. This post was originally posted on Violetta's personal blog.

As I reflect on my experiences with the poor in the past year, I realized the amazing effect these people have had on my life. This is just a small summary of the amazing lessons I have learned on the streets of my city.

I have been going out with my friend for a while now, and have met a lot of people in the downtown areas as well as built deeper relationships with a handful of them. I have noticed that as I keep going out weekly or a couple times a week, I am more and more involved in their daily struggles. These relationships are so beautiful and vulnerable, but naturally, they also cause a great deal of tension as I leave my friends at the end of every outreach, knowing that I am going home to my comfortable bed while they have to find a spot to sleep with their switch blade at hand.

Realizing that this tension will never go away has been a hard lesson to learn and on so many occasions, I have felt absolutely helpless to their situations. Feeling like I cannot offer anything to my brothers and sisters breaks my heart. And the things I am trying to offer are not actually making any kind of change to the system which is always going to title them as less than human, dirty, and forever marginalized. Honestly, overtime, my heart has become hardened to this reality and before starting [the Underground Institute class] Urban Theology, I was feeling weak, tired and wanting to give up on the outreaches we do every week. It felt more and more hopeless every time we ran out of food before everyone was fed, or we didn’t have the things they needed, or we couldn’t provide a real release from the struggles they face daily. Being in class has opened by eyes to gods amazing power and to the suffering he calls us to.

I have embraced the tension I will forever feel and let it propel me to further action, for a louder voice to speak on the behalf of the voiceless. I have looked for every opportunity to embrace them and reaffirm their purpose and their dignity and to never be the one to rob them of that. There is so much they have taught me about simplicity, patience, endurance, importance of deeper relationships, and so much more.

As I begin entering into a relationship with them, one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had is listening to their dreams and aspirations for the future. The poor’s pursuit of luxuries and unnecessary comforts is virtually nonexistent. The things they want from life are as simple as a job that gives them dignity, a place to live that is simple but safe, and reconciliation with family who have not forgiven them or quickly forgotten them. Some want to change the world and the systems that have been against them for years and others simply want to remember what it is like to have peace. Some want to lead rallies and speak prophetically about the injustices while others want to buy a trailer and park it on the beach.

Their dream is simply to have choices, to regain their dignities, and almost always, to help other as they have once been helped. As they so patiently wait for these dreams to come true, for justice to be served and for promises to be fulfilled, they have trust, in God and in people. Even after years of abuse and unfaithful promises, they are still hopefully that one day everything will change, one day people will do what they promised. And I see their despair when a promise does not come through or when a plan to finally get off the streets falls apart.

It is painful to watch them being let down over and over again as their destinies are in clenched in someone else’s hand. And I know I have let them down too. I also have been part of the “just like everyone else” statistic that the homeless are far too familiar with. But even in my shame and embarrassment, I come back to see them, maybe have a conversation or two if they will allow it, but they welcome me with open arms every time, as if old friends are once again reunited.

I am still only brushing the surface of what it means to live in solidarity with the poor and honestly, I don’t think I’m even close. But still, I cannot live without the poor. I need them way more than they need me. I would be the one who is less than human without them.

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