Turning Again is a guest blog by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove dealing with Recovery Road. His community in Durham, North Carolina, USA, works to explore alternative approaches to pursuing the Kingdom Dream, offering hope and opportunity to bewildered and burnt out people.
'On the wall of a recovery community that I knew well a decade ago, there hung a sign that I haven't been able to get off my mind lately. It said in simple, bold letters:
In so many ways, School for Conversion is an extended recovery community. The turning that we try to foster is a conversion of our whole lives from the death-dealing patterns of addiction, abuse, and neglect to the daily rhythms of beloved community. Whether it's neighbourhood youth work, classes in prisons, or seminars on new monastic community, all of us are doing what we're doing because we know that we need to be healed.
Maybe you could say that everyone's primary motivation here is selfish. Our kids want to do well in school. Our coaches want to do something meaningful with their lives. Students from inside the prison love a place where they feel like human beings. Students from outside love a context where ideas come to life. The professors tell us they keep coming back because they want to be here.
We're each doing what we're doing because we know it's what we need.
But what we're doing is about more than our own needs. Brittany helps me remember that. A young woman who grew up in Durham, Brittany has struggled to find work and make a life for herself in this, her hometown. A recent report on our city says that, over the past eight years, 150,000 new jobs have come to Durham--a majority of them entry-level, well paying jobs. But almost none of these jobs have gone to people like Brittany. Unemployment among those under 29 has gone up, if fact, during this time of unprecedented economic growth.
Brittany came with us on our 21st Century Freedom Ride last month. She listened to stories from the Civil Rights movement and met peers from today's undocumented youth movement who have been experimenting in nonviolent social change. "If my struggle with finding a job is not limited to me," Brittany said after we got back, "then this means that someone else is having the same struggle as I am.... I do have the power to make a difference if I stand up for what I believe in and put in the time and effort to make change possible."
Brittany is learning that her recovery from this broken system will never be complete until she helps to heal this society that has made so many of us sick.
What's more, she's helping me to see that this is the work we're called to--not only creating spaces for people to heal, but also empowering those who've experienced the transforming power of love to make a difference in their own communities.
It's why, right here in the neighbourhood, we've joined a coalition to establish a Neighbourhood Safety Council whose mission is to reduce racial profiling. And it's why, with other youth organisations in the city, we're helping to establish a Durham Youth Council to organise for jobs.
At the end of the day, we’re convinced that the turning we each need as individuals is the conversion that our systems and institutions need, too. In the end, our whole world must be born again. But the only way to get there is the way of love--a way that insists that none of us is healed until all of us are healed.
Which is why I can't forget that sign: "My recovery isn't complete until I help the society that made me sick to heal." Indeed.
Thanks for continuing to walk with us on this road to recovery,