Tamara’s compassion is on full display near closing time one Thursday. A guest comes in at 2:45 p.m., when most members are finishing their last cups of coffee and starting to help with clean-up tasks. She sits with the newcomer as he eats and asks what else she can get him. More coffee? Water? Snacks for the road? Learning that he is currently experiencing homelessness, she even offers him a spare shirt she has in her bag.
This sort of deep kindness seems to come effortlessly to her. At the Café, she can often be found talking intently with other members, listening more than sharing. She’s among the first to volunteer for clean-up tasks and goes out of her way to make sure staff have the help they need at the end of the day. Outside of the Café, she volunteers to clean houses for people who have difficulty doing so on their own–just one more way she’s choosing to give back.
In her free time, Tamara loves doing artwork. During the COVID lockdown last year, she did 10 hours of artwork a day, mostly Native American mandalas. While this helped her get through a difficult few months, she struggled from the lack of socialization. She felt so lucky when she found the Café earlier this year and began to rebuild connections.
“It helps me more than anything I’ve been doing or taking,” she says. “I get a lot of healing from being here. Even if I’m not speaking about problems, I feel important. I feel like I’m treated as an equal.”
Since her first visit, she has hardly missed a day. One of the things she likes best is meeting all sorts of people, including those who are experiencing different challenges than her. She appreciates that staff are comfortable sharing their own struggles, and sees them as living testimonials to the power of recovery. “It makes me feel like I can be a role model sometime,” she says.
Helping Others and Helping Ourselves
We believe Tamara is already a role model, sharing gifts of compassion and companionship with anyone who walks through our doors. She reminds us that helping others and helping ourselves are beautifully intertwined. Being at the Café allows her to both get support for her own mental health and support others along their recovery journeys. That’s part of the magic of the Recovery Café model.