There’s this thing about living life with people—sometimes you get burned. When that happens it’s tempting to close up shop, shake the dust off our feet, and give up. The next time someone needs help, there’s that nagging little worry that says it will happen again. That we should protect ourselves. But that’s just an excuse, really.
At Redwood, before we opened United House, we were told that out of our five units, the chances were great that one of our friends would clean out the apartment in the night and leave with everything. It was a risk we chose to take. (For the record, it hasn’t happened yet.) But it does happen, doesn’t it? My husband and I, years ago, took in a young woman and her baby for a while. She was living in a hotel room with a five-month-old and we had an extra room. Seemed like a good fit. Long story short, she stole from us—things she didn’t even need like pictures from my son’s baby album and video games for a system she didn’t own. Needless to say, we were very hurt. The thought crossed our minds that if we were presented with an opportunity to help someone again we might say no.
But then, it was just stuff. Her life mattered more than those things we lost. The lives of all the other people we would meet mattered more. The problem is when you shut out the bad things in life, you’re shutting out the good things as well. The walls that are meant to protect you end up stifling you. So how do you get past the pain and keep soft-hearted? How do you keep your door open? Sometimes that means setting boundaries. Getting a record check done for a new tenant, going with a friend who’s having a hard time to purchase groceries instead of giving her a gift card, meeting someone at a coffee shop instead of in your home. It takes extra time. But those boundaries are there to keep the doors open, not prevent future pain. I’m glad to say we did keep helping. We’ve had so many opportunities to intersect with other people’s lives that we would have missed had we closed ourselves off. We had to face the risk that we might get hurt again. But it was ok. Because the chance to grow and the chance to help someone else grow was worth the risk.