The following reflections are from Lillian Mark, GLIDE Community Safety and Training Manager and were originally delivered to GLIDE’s congregation on September 17, 2017.
I came to GLIDE in 2004 as a part of GLIDE’s Emerging Leaders Internship Program. During my second week here I sat in one of GLIDE’s Recovery Circles and since that moment my time at GLIDE has been about looking at my own humanity—looking at my own humanity so that I can have room for other people’s humanity.
I have worked in many roles at GLIDE. Eighteen months ago I was entrusted to serve as GLIDE’s Community Safety and Training Manager for the staff you see in yellow—those men and women who do the frontline work here every day, and have been for decades. I struggled with the decision to transition because I had doubts whether I truly understand what it means to be “For the People,” which is a core GLIDE value. I wondered, can I “walk that walk”?
This role has been the most challenging and soul-saving time for me at GLIDE. It has been an absolute honor to work on this team. We help keep the doors wide open for as many people as possible. We are the extended family for people who need and want it, and they are my family. We are there for the good days and the bad days. The team teaches me a lot. Let me tell you about the other day. . .
The other day, two men were arguing while waiting in line for breakfast. Our Daily Free Meals program averages 2,100 meals per day to anyone in need. John, a member of our Community Safety Team, sends one of the men to the front of the line and the other further back. He talks to the one in the front. “Look man, I want both of you to go downstairs to eat a hot meal so I’m going to let you go down first, and then hopefully by the time he comes down you would have left but promise me you will let it go.” John believes that even on people’s hard days, they deserve an advocate.
The other day, a woman in a wheelchair and wearing a neck brace was trying to dine downstairs. She sometimes gets support in our Walk-In Center, which helped over 1,300 people last fiscal year. She missed each time she tried to pick up the food and bring it to her mouth. Tanya put on gloves and walked over and fed her the meal. Tanya knows that sometimes we have to step outside what we think our role is and just lead with our hearts.
The other day, someone was overdosing across the street. Eric radioed the team to call 911 and for Narcan, the drug that reverses overdoses. Last fiscal year GLIDE’s Harm Reduction Team distributed 665 canisters of Narcan so that the people can save themselves and each other in moments of crisis. Eric administered the Narcan and saved a life. A couple of days later, I saw the same man come in for a bag lunch a bit intoxicated. Eric says to him, “Hey, you may want to slow down there a bit, man, take it easy.” Eric understands that recovery takes time and compassion.
The other day, a woman stopped me outside. She showed me a levels test she took for City College and said, “Ms. Lillian, look: I scored a 26! I didn’t pass but I’m going to take it again and I will show you when I do pass.” I know that on people’s good days, they also need someone to celebrate them.
Every day at GLIDE I am invited to believe in the power and resilience that comes when people gather together. You and I and everyone in these stories are the same. We want to be a part of a safe community where we feel seen, heard and cared for. We want someone to let us know that there is hope. When you come to church on Sundays, the GLIDE Ushers keep the doors wide, wide open for you. They call you by name. They hand you tissues when you need them. We all come hoping to walk away with more than we came with. GLIDE is here for all of that, for everyone.