“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Last week I met with a Salvation Army officer to chat about a theological question that interests us both. We don’t know each other very well, so we told parts of our story to each other in order to begin developing a friendship. We’re both from Newfoundland, which is almost always an instant connection point for relationship building, so we shared common stories of life in that province.
He told me a story about a time when he was the corps officer (pastor) of a small Salvation Army church in a very rural Newfoundland outport. He noticed early on that while a lot of women were coming to church on Sunday, the men of the village were not. So he started to build bridges with the local men. As it was a predominantly fishing village, he began to get up at 4 in the morning every day and head out on their boats to help to check their lobster traps. He said, “I threw up my guts every time I went out. But I kept doing it.” Relationships formed. Trust was earned. Friendships evolved. And some of those men even began to go to church on Sundays.
As we focus in November on our core value of the month, cooperation, I am mindful of this story. We have decided, as a group of Salvation Army shelters in Toronto, to cooperate with each other by integrating and forming a new entity we have named Toronto Housing and Homeless Supports. We have just completed our second of a three year plan to integrate, and we are seeing good fruit of this endeavor. We know, as the narrator says in the above video, that we can do more together than we can do apart.
We’ve also acknowledged that some of the things we once did, out of our effort to respond to the growing number of people experiencing homelessness in our city, just weren’t effective. So we’re trying some different things. Changing how we do business is hard work and sometimes uncomfortable, but as we learn how to cooperate with each other, we’ll keep getting up at 4 in the morning to check those lobster traps, even if it makes us throw up sometimes.
That’s how much we care about our friends on the street.
That’s how much we want to end homelessness.
And it does get easier the more often we are willing to take that leap of faith aboard the boat. So let’s keep cooperating with each other and striving to be ‘The Hand of God in the Heart of the City’.
Dion Oxford, Director of Mission Integration
Grace me with a spirit of cooperation, O God.
Restrain impulses that cause me to value my own opinions over the needs of others.
Remind me often of the importance of serving one another with humility.
And help me to regard each and every person as part of the great human family,
created in your image, and held in your great and loving heart.