Joseph Jordan-Berenis
December 2017

We often like to think that as a people we are as strong as those who have the most among us, but a society is like a chain; it is only as strong as its weakest link. It turns out we are only as strong as those among us who have the least.

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said it much more eloquently than I ever could. In his last sermon at the National Cathedral, on the Sunday before he was assassinated, he said, “I cannot be what I ought to be unless you are what you ought to be.”

Maybe it was pure coincidence, but that same night President Lyndon Johnson announced to the nation that he would not run for re-election.

For the past three years we have been focused on developing comprehensive and collaborative resources that will best serve the needs of our guests. ICS now has 16 partner providers in the Day Services Program, is open during the summer months for women and children, and serving more people than ever before in our seasonal night shelter.

Throughout its history the strength of ICS has been its volunteer corps, without which none of what we do could get done. Volunteers have always been our most valuable resource. It seems the more we succeed the more we need to do. The work we all do, each in our own way, for the people we serve every day of the year is the “no frills” version of what the holiday season is truly all about; to serve those who have the least among us. Jesse Jackson once said at a Sunday service that no one is getting into heaven without a permission slip from the poor.

The other day one of our guests, a woman in her mid-fifties, said to me, “I’ve been in different shelters for two years, since I was raped, and this is the first shelter to help me heal. Everyone here is so kind. This is a healing place.”

Our guests arrive at our door in the midst of a long and difficult journey and the issues they struggle with are often the result of trauma gone untreated. Being a human being, for us and our guests, is often messy and unpredictable. Sometimes, in the midst of the daily grind, when we have lost sight of the vision; in that moment when we might question whether the work is worth it, that is the opportune moment, particularly during the holiday season, to take the time to remind ourselves that when we lift someone up, we all rise and that when we help someone heal, we all heal.


Joseph Jordan-Berenis