Jack Dison is a familiar face around the PARC. He comes weekly to lead a discussion group, and we are always blessed by his presence. I wanted to give you the opportunity to hear his perspective and the effect volunteering at the PARC has had on his life. There are many ways to volunteer at the PARC, and if you are interested I would love to tell you more.
It seems to me that at the heart of Jesus’ teachings (and other similar traditions) we are called to love one another and to place the needs of others above our own. That’s a challenging assignment. How can we do that, especially for those who have been pushed aside and rejected?
One of the few places that I have found those principles to be embodied, day-after-day, is in the organization known as the PARC. It offers a place where people facing enormous challenges can be and are accepted, encouraged, and supported.
As a volunteer I get to participate in what the PARC offers. That happens in at least two ways. First, I get to witness the love that is available and exchanged in various ways for and among members who find their way to the PARC.
That reminds me of the place in the Bible where Jesus explains that the two major commandments are (1) love God and (2) love your neighbor. Someone then asked him “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus then told the story that we call the Good Samaritan. The story calls us to be merciful to those who are poor, rejected, and in need. It calls us to get out of our comfort zones and to cross boundaries that normally would keep us apart. The Jews and Samaritans were separated by distrust and hate. But it was the Good Samaritan who showed mercy and love to the Jew who was in trouble and great need. Obviously it was the Good Samaritan who was the neighbor, rather than the others who passed by and ignored the one who needed help.
In the PARC, members are given constructive ways to spend their days, rather than merely sitting and standing around doing little or nothing. Those responsible for setting the PARC up and administering it, noticed ways that they could be Good Samaritans right here and right now in Amarillo, Texas. Doing that work is not easy, and in some cases it is quite difficult.
Second, as a volunteer I have the privilege to facilitate a “class” or group to give the PARC members an opportunity to share conversation which helps them take a deeper look at themselves than most have ever done. I do this using what is called the “circle method.” The technique is fairly simple. We sit in a circle, we use a talking piece which we pass around the circle, and we share parts of our story, which direct us to look at where we have been in our lives, where we are now, and where we hope to be going in the future.
Most members are drawn to and participate in what we do in the group. We work together as a group to make it a safe place to share. An important thing we do for each other in the group is to listen deeply to each other. That is a gift of love we can exchange in our group process. It is important to be listened to.
Being facilitator does not make me the expert in the group. While I help keep the group on track, I am one among all the others in the group. I am convinced that the wisdom which emerges in such groups comes from every member of the group as we share our experience, our stories, and ourselves with each other.
It is a huge honor for me to be a witness to the fine work of the PARC and to be a facilitator in the groups that meet each Tuesday morning. It adds to my life every time I am there.
I would not call myself a Good Samaritan, but the PARC gives me a chance to hang out with some people who are.