A reflection by Faire Holliday, program manager
Everyone deserves to be known and loved. That’s one of the core concepts that Recovery Café Longmont is based on. It’s easy to see how this idea is turned into a reality for our members and staff. Members attend weekly Recovery Circles where they share honestly about their struggles and successes. Staff begin weekly team meetings and one-on-ones with personal check-ins.
What has been less clear until recently is how we can offer this to our volunteers in a tangible way. A few months before the pandemic started, we began hosting monthly Ambassadors of Hospitality Circles. These were initially envisioned as a place for volunteers to discuss things that had come up during their volunteer shifts, get the support of their peers, and provide feedback about the program–in other words, to support them in their capacity as volunteers.
When we transitioned to offering these meetings virtually in April 2020, we weren’t sure who would show up. After all, no one was volunteering in-person. What would there be to discuss? We were amazed to find that, not only did volunteers show up, the meetings adapted to fit this particular moment in time. It was no longer about supporting the individual as a volunteer, but about supporting the individual as, well, an individual.
The Gift of Listening
Much like our Recovery Circles with members, these Ambassadors of Hospitality Circles are a place where no one is expected to put on a good face or only share the positive. At any given meeting, we have people who are happy, people who are sad, and people who are everywhere in between. When people share about struggles, no one rushes in to offer suggestions about how to fix the problem. There’s a common understanding that sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone is just to listen.
Many people talk about their loved ones–the joy of presence and the sorrow of absence. Others share about the stress of waking to the same thing day after day. Some share about little pieces of normalcy: new jobs, good books, moments of laughter. Lately, we’ve been hearing about vaccines and hopes for the post-COVID future. As people share these reflections, others nod. In a time of great loneliness and isolation, it can be powerful to know that there are common threads that run through all of our lives.
To Know and Love Others
As we begin the process of reopening the Café, we will carry the lessons of these virtual Ambassadors of Hospitality Circles forward. For many nonprofits, the mission ends after the members or clients are served. We are striving to go beyond that, to be a place that supports all who walk through our doors. Members, volunteers, or staff, we are all seeking something through our connection to the Café: to be a part of something larger than ourselves, to share our gifts, to be known and loved, to know and love others.
Or perhaps just to share a cup of coffee with a new friend. After all, sometimes it’s the simplest things that keep us coming back.