Light and Power

  Friday, May 29, 2009 – Permalink –

Freestyle Volunteer

Judy Lightfoot, formerly a teacher and the Founding Head of Eastside Prep in Kirkland, is a Seattle writer.

Thousands of people in my city who are ambulatory, articulate, and otherwise capable of a social life are isolated from mainstream society, just because they have a mental illness or are homeless. Long-term isolation will damage anyone's sense of balance and integrity, and public services can’t satisfy the human need for personal connection's.

So I choose one individual to meet with every week for one hour of coffee and conversation at a cafe. I also enjoy irregularly scheduled coffee hours with people I meet who live in tent cities.

I don't need specialized knowledge about mental illness or homelessness, or about available resources, because my job isn't to solve someone’s problems. It's just to sit and listen and talk over coffee for an hour. Over time, this interested attention can add up to a transforming gift. And the atmosphere of the public spaces we share would brighten if millions of us contributed one coffee hour per week in this way.

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