Thursday, September 15, 2011

The JOIN Way

By Colleen Sinsky

Many conversations in the office make some allusion to the nebulous “JOIN Way.” It’s a sort of undefinable set of principles that guides the work we do. I’m new, and underqualified to try to explain what exactly the JOIN Way is, but it’s a beautiful thing to get to experience. It both encompasses, and goes beyond our mission and values statement and reaches towards a holistic understanding of how, and why we do what we do. Even when we’re overwhelmed by audits, communication frustrations, funding limitations and the sheer volume of individuals experiencing homelessness in Portland, the JOIN Way exists like a guiding spirituality to carry on the mission. The shared humanity we foster in each relationship is the product of nearly two decades of dedication by volunteers, donors, the board, the outreach, retention and admin staff, and our folks who have allowed us into their lives.

I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, but I googled a definition of “The Force” feeling like there’s some comparison to be made between the mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi and Lio, who’s spent the last year teaching me the ways of JOIN. According to Wookiepedia (The Star Wars wiki. No joke.) the light side of the Force is defined as being "aligned with compassion, selflessness, self-knowledge and healing, mercy and benevolence." Sounds familiar! Lio just left for a well-deserved sabbatical, leaving the rest of the office scrambling around to stay on top of his gigantic caseload. Earlier this week he and I went out to our favorite pizza place for lunch and I voiced how worried I was about him being gone, and about the possibility of me having to have a say in whether or not to continue with financial assistance for some of his folks. Maybe it’s my background in economics or having worked briefly for another large non-profit, but I find myself often wanting to take a more conservative approach to continuing financial support. Lio’s smiling Samoan answer was the perfect understanding of the JOIN Way: “Just remember compassion towards the person in front if you and you can never do wrong.”

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