As I reflect on my life, I am filled with gratitude to my parents, other family members, friends, and mentors who helped me with the many decisions and challenges that I faced. Whether my need was related to education, employment, transportation, or housing, I always had someone to talk to who had walked the road before me and was happy to share their life experience with me. My life would be very different today if I had not had this support system.
Although I did not realize it at the time, I was blessed with a wellspring of "social capital"—people in my life who brought their relationships and their resources to bear when needed to help me achieve my goals.
Sadly, there are many youth who do not have a network of family and friends to call upon for support. Some grew up in foster care and when they turned 18, found themselves alone and on their own. For others, life at home was so distressing that homelessness was less painful. Others were rejected by their families and found themselves out on the street.
Youth who are homeless and alone are not just homeless and alone. They are without the resources that being in relationships bring to our lives. They are at a dead end, with no good way out.
Unless someone shows up to help them. The government tries, but the effort falls short of the need, because the need is a real person that cares and is brave enough to step out in faith.
Will you be that person?
St. John’s Open Table ministry brings relationships and social capital to those in need. What makes Open Table different is that it gives us the opportunity to connect heart to heart, thus helping us understand and value one another.
Communities around the country use the Open Table model to leverage the power of relationships and social capital. Volunteers are trained to serve as Table Members for a person in need of support (Friend). The group comes together with a focus on relationship, while assisting the Friend to pursue the goals that they set in their Life Plan. After a year of weekly meetings, interspersed with social activities, the Table celebrates their time together, and then continues in relationship in whatever fashion they decide.
Serving as a Table Member is a different experience from other forms of social outreach. It is intimate and personal, rewarding and frustrating, challenging and invigorating. The Friend is the ultimate decision maker with the Table providing ideas, input and guidance.
Table members learn to work as a team, coming to consensus on recommendations. We are taught to recognize when we are being judgmental and to let our judgments go. We learn a lot about ourselves during the year of the table, and beyond. Most importantly, we have the opportunity to learn to live our faith.
In the past year, 35 St. John parishioners and their friends have participated on Tables, working with five homeless youth in association with Crosswinds Youth Services in Cocoa.
We are now looking for volunteers who would like to participate on a Table or to help with ministry. Volunteers need not be St. John parishioners, so feel free to invite your family, friends, and neighbors to join you in forming a Table. If you would like to meet new people, we will connect you with others with a heart to serve.
We will provide training in a safe environment (virtual or socially distanced) around a schedule that works for you.
If you would like to share the blessings that you have received in your life, I hope that you will consider joining the Open Table ministry.
To volunteer, or to learn more about being on a Table or other ways that you can help, please send an email to [email protected], or call Deacon Michael at 321-946-3388.
- Linda Morrisson