Transforming the Unconscious Mind

By Mick Silvers, Partnership Coordinator

“I do not mind working for the community, but I do not want to live amongst this community!”, this was my thought while sitting in my friend’s house in Phoenix, Arizona- having finished already two very exhausting days of driving from Arkansas.

Earlier that day, I had received a phone call from a co-worker at Union Rescue Mission informing me that my temporary housing fell through and that I was going to have to live at Union Rescue Mission until I found my permanent housing. I went from having an apartment to myself in the valley, to literally living in the heart of Skid Row. “This is not what I signed up for.”, I told my friend who was helping me make the drive out to Los Angeles…now Skid Row.

Here I was moving to Los Angeles to serve as the Next Step Ministries Partnership Coordinator and already I was complaining that I had to live alongside those with whom we partner. I was dehumanizing the very community that I had just spent the last summer advocating for. With a few complaining thoughts I made the friends I had developed last summer unhuman. I put them in a different category- away from myself. They were Skid Row people; I was not. So, I had to ask myself, am I okay with serving those within the Skid Row Community only when it pertained to my job, or am I actually here to integrate my life with the lives of those living on Skid Row? It has taken me a few weeks of living on Skid Row to realize what I had been doing and to ask myself the question above.

There were three things that changed my views of living on Skid Row: God’s word, a book I was reading, and the way the Skid Row community welcomed and loved me. Two weeks ago I read Romans 12:15-16 which states, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!”. This verse called me right out. I was so worried about my personal status, that I let it get in the way of truly loving my new community well. I only wanted to be a part of the Skid Row community when it pertained to my job. I was okay with living life with them between the hours of 9 to 5.

One morning while reading Brene Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness I read “Because so many time-worn systems of power have placed certain people outside the realm of what we see as human, much of our work now is more a matter of rehumanizing. That starts in the same place dehumanizing starts- with words and images”. Again, this called me out as to what I had been doing.

Through my thoughts I was making the beautiful community of Skid Row unhuman. When I saw them as less than, it was easier to be okay with the condition they were currently in and justified my anger because I did not deserve to live in this environment. Once I changed my thoughts from these are the people I come and work for to these people are created in God’s image just as much as myself, then I saw this community as one I would love to live in. The people of Skid Row deserved just as much love and respect as I do based on the fact that they were created in God’s image.

As I seek to live in community with my friends who live on Skid Row they have personally taught me several things. They have taught me that this community did not love me because I was an employee of Union Rescue Mission, or because I was serving with Next Step Ministries, or because I was fighting to help alleviate homelessness. Instead, they were loving me because they saw me as their equal. They saw me as created by the Almighty Creator that created them, I deserved to live in harmony with them.

I have only lived in the community of Skid Row for a month, but they have already stripped off what I thought it meant to be a Christian doing God’s work amongst the least of these. My community has helped remind me that I am just as much a least of these as they are. The things I lack may be different but through living in community, with Christ as the center, they are able to fulfill those needs.