Archives for October 2011
In my last post I mentioned traveling to Los Angeles to visit the Union Rescue Mission for my work at Pepperdine University. The picture below is of the men and women from the mission who are participating in the Pepperdine Micro Enterprise Program, and if you look closely, you will see that this is an inspired and inspiring group. They have an uncompromising belief in their ability to overcome adversity (they’re homeless of all things), as well as a deep reserve of tenacity and optimism.
I believe you can tell a lot about a person by the questions they ask, and the questions asked by this group were significantly different than the questions asked by my corporate clients. Their questions weren’t rooted in simply wanting to understanding the content intellectually. No, their questions were rooted in the belief that understanding the content can and or would lead to breaking the cycle of homelessness. That sense of urgency is missing far too often in corporate America.
I have high hopes for the work of Pepperdine University and Union Rescue Mission. Let’s all do our part to change the course of human events in some small way.
I’ve become fond of admonishing clients, family members and friends to “go forth and do your part to change the course of human events.” I say this partly because I enjoy the reaction the comment solicits as much as I believe we all have the ability to do exactly that every day.
Let me be real though. I’ve been asked to do my part to change the course of human events with a group of homeless men and women and I’m at a loss for how to make a difference with people I don’t understand or have direct experience with. Candidly, I feel way out of my element. Yes, I really do believe that changing the course of human events is something I aspire to do every day, but why then am I nervous about this work? It’s not simply about exchanging my known and predictable world of work; the work within the confines of the executive suite for a homeless shelter on Skid Row, there is something else at play that I don’t yet understand.
Here’s a little background. I’m an Adjunct Faculty member at Pepperdine University’s Palmer School of Law and Entrepreneurship. Through the school a Micro-Enterprise Program has been created in conjunction with the Union Rescue Mission. The program seeks to empower homeless men and women to make positive, life-changing transformations by providing them with a principle-centered education and an invested community of student, faculty and business leaders. The program provides an opportunity for graduate students to serve as mentors for some of the community’s neediest citizens while developing student leaders to assume active roles in advancing the program’s objectives. I love this idea and am fully on board!
What I didn’t know: Less than thirty miles from Pepperdine University is one of the largest populations of homeless Americans in the United States. Skid Row, a section of downtown Los Angeles that encompasses approximately four square miles is home to roughly 8,000 destitute men and women of all races, creeds, and colors. Many of these individuals face daily struggles that are unimaginable to the average American. Broken families, memories of physical, verbal or sexual abuse, life-long battles with drug and alcohol addictions, and the overwhelming feelings that they are not needed, wanted or loved have left deep and meaningful scars on the hearts and minds of those who find refuge on Skid Row. Without direction, without a helping hand, and without the support of a positive community, the mass of these individuals are destined to live a life of restless wandering as they make their homes on the streets of our neighboring city. Changing the course of human events is certainly needed here.
What I’m doing: Since I’ve never been exposed to the homeless up close and personally, I’m flying to Los Angeles tomorrow to meet Ronald Smith at the Union Rescue Mission. Ron works at the mission and is a graduate of the Pepperdine program. I asked him to be my guide, mentor, and teacher as I step into a world I have very little knowledge of.
Over the course of the next few days and weeks you’ll see updates about what I’m doing and learning. Maybe I’ll learn what it is about homelessness that makes me nervous; maybe I’ll learn about leaders like Ron and how they deal with the ups and downs of homelessness; maybe I’ll make a difference in the course of human events in some small way.
I found a video that changed my perceptions of homelessness – I hope it does the same for you. Take four minutes and watch the video. Then ask yourself, “what have I done today to positively change the course of human events today?” No matter what your answer, the opportunity to change the course of human events will show up in seemingly unimaginable ways.