Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Answering the Princeton students' questions. And learning the meaning of decompensated.


The Princeton Interfaith group came for orientation

I talk with Ryan about he and Sam’s success with Cymbeline. He reminds me it was a whole team. A concept i affirm wholeheartedly. And I also want to know how with no publicist and their first real production they drew overflow crowds. I’ve obviously got a lot to learn about social media. Ryan completely gets what we are about here and I find in his gentle, open spirit something I want to keep around.

Danielle is back from vacation and ready to help Leila and I find all the files, information, passwords and codes we have been struggling with these last several weeks.

Another Danielle, from BRC, tells me she’s here to meet Sean. He’s been going through his stuff all day in the sanctuary. I’m disturbed to discover that the last time she was here, he refused services. And never went there. If he continues to refuse services, there’s nothing more I can do and he can’t be here.

About half an hour later, she comes back. Says he refused again. Became agitated. Fearing for her own safety, she won’t talk to him again without her supervisor. She says he took off. That she will come back and talk to him again and that I should call unless he is decompensated…That’s a new one on me. It seems that, officially speaking, in medicine, decompensation is the functional deterioration of a previously working structure or system. In other words, if he’s acting up, forget it. He does also have a psychiatric diagnosis, she says. Well, ya think?

Just about then, Kujegi and her Princeton U Interfaith group arrive as part of their orientation process. They are freshmen and sophomores. From all around the country. And the world. Like Taiwan. The peoples Republic. France. And i’m part of their intro to New York City, being as they are, in suburban Ivy League New Jersey.

Starting outside, I give them a primer on gentrification 101. Then inside, give them the story of West-Park.  I answer their questions:

What’s the answer to social mobility?
More than anything, education. 75% of black youth with out high school diplomas wind up incarcerated. Our city still has  City Univeristy of New York, what was once the Harvard of the working class. A remnant of NYC’s old, long running social democracy days. No longer free, but still a way out.

How do I feel about charity? Service projects?
OK so long as you have reflection on your action. Develop relationships. Never do for someone what they can do for themselves.

Do I have to give money to panhandlers? Beggars? 
No. And I quote Marc Greenberg of the Interfaith Assembly, no but you do need to recognize their humanity. The worst part of homelessness Is becoming invisible. Losing your humanity. Your self.

What’s the single most important thing they can learn?
Community organizing training…that’s it…that’s the basics…And relationships, conversations underlie everything. I also advise them to enjoy this time to study, read, think. It’s an opportunity you won’t have again.

Soon enough, Session is in to catch up on everything. Negotiations. Construction process. Replacing Danielle. Like I said, everything….

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