I’m in my third week as an AmeriCorps VISTA working on ending chronic homelessness, and every day my work brings me out into the community. Essentially, people tell me stories all day, and it’s as if my gentle inquisition into their work initiates tireless Rube Goldberg machines narrating challenges, successes, and goals. Most conversations have a shift. After giving well-practiced facility tours and outcome statistics, we’re both comfortable that I understand the ‘what.’ This, after all, is why I came: to ask ‘what’ they do.
What grabs me, though, and what most inspires me to enjoy this work, comes right after. It’s the ‘why.’ Here we let loose the hounds of the soul. I love it. I love hearing these talented, dedicated individuals speak with vulnerability and compassion. Our eyes meet with such focus as to distort and fade the rest of the room, and I leave feeling like I see the world with a new palette of colors.
As we live we transform, and each day’s experience adds new layers. When someone shares the ‘why’ of what they do, they draw from all of these daily layers. Their endeavors connect to their hearts’ storms, summers, folklore, and goals. It revives their youthful idealism, it harkens their heartbreaks and failures, and it prospects paths towards the future. Everyone has a story, and I love getting to not only hear these stories, but also help advance them as we work towards ending chronic homelessness in Winston Salem.