I had every intention, until these last few days to title this blog ‘Solidarity’. That was, until I spent some time reflecting on a recent and rare opportunity.
As most of you know, we lost our 26 year old son, Nick, after a 13+ year battle to find long term, affordable, quality care for mental illness and addiction.
We learned, as did Nick, that regretfully, there is no “formula” for recovery although you will find many who promise such. You simply need to spend thousands of dollars per MONTH for a bed. One location I recently viewed online charges $68K per MONTH for your own room. Yes, you read that correctly… 68K per MONTH!
Now of course it is Malibu and you do get a view of the ocean! And you know what…people pay it because they are desperate; and places such as these promise a “formula” … it just requires some $$$$ to unlock the door. I only wish this was the exception rather than the rule!
I can’t tell you how much I loathe those who prey on desperate and hopeless families and individuals. We were one of them. Shame on them. I have the same level of disgust and distaste for televangelists….but I digress.
So why do I make mention of this ‘black mark’ in the world of recover… only to contrast it with Delancey Street and what it inspires.
Delancey Street was founded over 40 years ago in San Francisco by a tenacious young woman and a partner who believed in the power of community to heal; in the power of a neighborhood.
Months before Nick died he listened to my pleas and agreed to apply for entrance at the Los Angeles Delancey Street. All of its locations are free, are open 24/7 and are run, except for its founder, by individuals such as Nick. Everyone comes through the same door and is offered respect, humanity, responsibility, accountability, dignity and care. The principle that guides Delancey Street is “each one, teach one”.
I prefer to think of Delancey Street and those other similar places such as San Patrignano in Italy, as having the right “ingredients”, not a false and costly promise of a “formula”.
Nick applied for Delancey Street that evening and was refused due to his history of mental illness. After he died, I wrote a letter to the founder, Mimi Silbert, and was shocked when she phoned me while choking back tears.
How I treasured that call; that someone would care, that someone would notice this tragic and unnecessary death.
From that single conversation I became inspired to do whatever I could to change the current culture of hopelessness and despair for the many “other Nicks”.
One month ago I had the rare and special opportunity to tour Delancey Street in San Francisco. I wish I could fully express to you how impressed I was and am with what they have accomplished. But it’s more. It’s not just what Delancey Street has accomplished with the “least of these” but it is what they inspire.
In a culture characterized by rejection, shame, failure, hopelessness, despair and death, they inspire hope, life and the healing power of a community.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said in regards to the civil rights struggle that the real goal was “to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor ….the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community”. That is what Mimi and those at Delancey Street have inspired; “the creation of the beloved community”.
So now, years after Nick’s struggle and his early death, I ask myself “are you and I building such communities where our brokenness informs our humanity or have we constructed fortresses to hide from the coming storm?”
Have we become immune to the devastation that surrounds us? The lives lost, the families destroyed? Is it too late? Who will we link arms with? It is time.
Until then, I will remember this; that Delancey Street teaches me that there is hope and power to change in community. May their tribe increase!