Beyond the hecticness of the everyday operations and the feeling of replacing “Where’s Waldo” with “Where’s Mr. Howard” – something special happens at the Interactive Resource Center (IRC) , a homeless day center in Greensboro, NC – something that I hope to one day say I was a part of and maybe even work to build in another organization. I have interned at the IRC for the past eight months, working with the Artifacts Cooperative to create a community of artists at the IRC that supports, teaches, and works together with one another to create and sell art. I have loved my time working with Artifacts: feeling the excitement of building meaningful relationships with the group, learning about the culture and community of people facing homelessness, and using art as a source for education and creative expression. Nevertheless, through my experience one of the most profound and unexpected lessons was discovering the meaning of pineapple.
I was working in the conference room preparing for an Artifacts meeting and a client asks if I can come with her to the kitchen, so she can get some pineapple because she missed lunch. She reassures me, Mr. Howard has said its okay, but she just doesn’t want to get in any trouble. Uncertain of how to respond, I decide that I can walk with her to the kitchen. But out of the corner office, we hear Gwen’s voice emerge, calling out “Mi casa es tu casa, our pineapple is your pineapple, feel free to help yourself.” The lady smiles beaming with happiness as she walks into the kitchen with pride. In that moment, I realized the lesson behind Gwen’s sly intervention. You or I don’t feel the need to gain permission to grab food from the kitchen, nor should anyone at the IRC. We are all people and at the IRC, we are treated as such. Through this philosophy, the IRC creates space together with clients to gain self-empowerment and self-respect. Just that simple piece of pineapple acted as catalyst against oppression and a source for dignity.
We are all humans. We are all people. We all deserve respect. We are a community.
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