I regularly identify “relationships” as a key piece of our identity at Uffizi. We believe in developing relationships between churches, N.G.O’s, the business community and the state in the name of fighting injustices. The influence of relationships goes much deeper than pooling resources. Abraham Maslow, a leading Psychologist of the 1900’s, identified the need for love/belonging as key to a human reaching a point of self-actualization. He suggested that unless an individual feels a sense of belonging, they cannot realize or pursue their potential fully.
I am privileged to catch a unique perspective of this in my relationship with friends on the streets. Recently I have had a close friend who lives at Alameda pusue chemotherapy. For months he has needed it, and unfortunately his cancer has spread radically due to the prolonged neglect. Early September a friend and myself started pouring more time into this man when his girlfriend shared with us her concern about his deteriorating health. Quickly after we began investing more in him we saw his concern for his own well-being increase. One day he called me and asked for a ride to the clinic, he had decided he wanted healing, and scheduled an appointment.
Not much longer he got himself into the hospital and began treatment. I got to spend lots of time with him at that point, it was awesome to hear him form plans for the future. He’s a man I’ve known a while and he’s always expressed a level of contentment about living outdoors. Suddenly he was talking about reunification with his family, getting disability and traveling. It was an unbelievable turnaround. More impressively, he has pursued those things with more independence than anyone else I’ve seen. He has reconnected with family, found a place to sleep indoors, and is pursuing SSDI.
It’s easy to wrestle with the idea that we aren’t doing enough. The more progress I see in Uffizi, the more my thoughts on success are challenged. I’ve been challenged to stop defining success by how quickly I can get something accomplished, and rather define it by whether or not my actions create a sense of value in the people I do life with. I believe that this is the key to empowerment.