By Virginia Wilmhoff
I work as a case manager with Bethesda Project. I serve 20 men living at Bainbridge, a permanent supportive housing facility. Each resident is formerly homeless with addiction and/or mental health diagnoses.
Since I started my position, I have learned more about hope. Over the years, many of the Bainbridge residents have struggled with addiction, mental illness, intellectual disabilities, or health problems, all of which can be extremely frustrating or even debilitating. Now, when they are faced with filling out complicated forms, navigating systems, managing money, or performing daily living tasks, they can be overwhelmed by the skills they lack to face these situations.
The residents, though, are all capable of accomplishing their goals. They got themselves off the streets, conquered drug and/or alcohol addictions, and have obtained treatment for health and/or mental illness diagnoses. Still, dealing with forms, systems, finances, and daily living can be difficult and, therefore, can take huge leaps of faith to accomplish. I have witnessed them take those leaps, and through the process, I have seen them gain greater independence.
The residents may gain confidence in themselves, but by sharing a house, they continually are confronted by the shortcomings of others. Many of the residents are struggling in a variety of ways, and when they encounter others who are also struggling, conflicts can arise. At the same time, the residents still enjoy each others' company. When they are together even when they don't always like each other, they are demonstrating hope.
Hoping in a broken world may be harder still. The residents can be overwhelmed by larger problems that seem like they are never going to change. Whether it's high prices, not enough low income housing, or confusing health care and benefits systems, it often seems like the world will never be on the residents' side. Yet, despite the fact that the world isn't perfect, they have all overcome challenges to find a safe, stable place to live. They are all seeing the beauty in a broken world, envisioning the good in the struggle.
Witnessing hope at Bainbridge has challenged me to be more hopeful. I can be negative about my own life and where it is going. I get discouraged when I consider what I do not have and where I am not. Since the new year, I have challenged myself to be more positive, and I am trying to be grateful more often. Instead of being negative about what I don't have, I have been trying to focus on what I do have. This discipline has helped me be more hopeful about my present and future.
I love taking photographs, and one of my favourites is of crocuses, stretching up to the sunlight. I wish the sun beamed like that all the time, but it doesn't. It's often hidden behind clouds of various kinds. In Thomas Hardy's poem, 'The Darkling Thrush', a man watches a thrush sing 'of joy illimited' as dusk overtakes a cold winter's day. As a case manager, I'm learning how to sing 'of joy illimited' even when there are clouds overhead. Because of the gleams of light already shining through the men at Bainbridge, I am inspired to continue singing.
Ginny's ministry placement is as a Case Manager at Bethesda Project.