Projects :: Luncheon :: September, 2010
Sufi Women Organization welcomed guest speaker Rev. Paul Gaffney, Chaplain of the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy, at a luncheon meeting held September 12, 2010. Paul shared his compassionate wisdom, gained from years of experience working to provide a sacred space, and to build community among homeless people in Marin County. Paul suggested that an important first step is to listen and understand the points of view and situations that the homeless population faces; his approach goes beyond the typical societal approach of "throwing money at" the numbers of homeless people - in Marin County as well as elsewhere throughout the country.
Saying that "I learn more than I teach," Paul recounted his childhood experience of seeing homeless people with some trepidation, and his own growth as he has listened to their stories. He described his approach which includes regular meetings in the park to create a space where all are welcome, where they may gather to support, listen to, and honor one another. In addition to addressing the health and wellness needs of the people, and arranging for periodic dinners provided by Marin's spiritual communities, Paul responds to the self-identified needs of the homeless to express their creativity in various venues where they can perform. He supports the homeless community in organizing shows featuring music, poetry and visual arts.
With minimal assistance from outside sources, Paul, with his wife Annie alongside, devotes his time and energy to serving those in need. He asks that others with similar concerns not turn a blind eye to those who so often live "beyond civilization," and instead work for change within our local governments, allowing homeless people to be paid to work - such as cleaning up the streets and other jobs that would allow the more disenfranchised to be a part of the community in which they live.
Luncheon attendees were inspired by Paul's dedication and sharing. Following the luncheon members of SWO and IAS have put together contributions to fund the "Friday Coffee" for a year. Every Friday, Paul hosts those who wish to coffee and sweets at a local coffee shop, providing a brief respite and a chance for conversation and developing community support. Thank you Paul!