Conflict and Community

It’s been way too long since I last posted on here and I’m hoping to make it a more regular thing, but I wanted to post a little note about this evening. The Underground is our regular Wednesday evening youth drop-in space that happens at St Stephens Episcopal. Like most of the things we do we try and make The Underground a space where a few core values in play (and we’ve talked about some of these here and here). The problem is what do you do when these core values come into conflict with one-another.
Two of the values that we try and hold above others are

  1. Having the community make decisions for itself.
    Many of the folks we see have come out of abusive homes, have had little to no opportunity at helping make decisions but instead are always being told what to do, where to do it and how. We want The Underground to be a space where they are able to have a say in what things look like and what happens.
  2. This is a space for folks who have nowhere else to go.
    Right from the beginning (from what I understand), long, long before I arrived HOMEpdx and The Underground, the goal had always been that this was a place where we folks got a second chance (and we were really generous with 2nd chances) because if we kicked some of these folks out, then there was absolutely nowhere else for folks to go.

This evening over chili-dogs we had a community conversation about how we as a community want to deal with folks being unsafe, and especially since there are often with small kids there, this can be a serious concern. But when some of the members of our community call for a “1 strike and you are (permanently) out” policy, it becomes very difficult to reconcile these two values. I have no doubt that we’ll be revisiting this conversation in the coming weeks (one of the most vocal proponents of the 1-and-done policy was making threats at others before the night was through) and I’m hoping that our community can find a harmony between these two in this situation and I also hope that our community might become known for being generous (instead of just pushovers).
Real community building is hard folks, and we have a long way to go.

A 3rd value we have is humor. Ken’s favorite joke when calling Bingo is “B9; the doctor just called and that cyst on you butt is B9”. I had so much fun running around all evening telling people that we had a new way of cooking the chili dogs (and showed them the below animated gif). This space, as it exists, wouldn’t be possible without all kinds of goofy jokes, good-natured ribbing and some gallows humor. It’s one of the things that makes Wednesday evenings one of my favorite parts of my week.