The ardent air of Southern California (So Cal in the currency) creeps in easily enough, and unlike Cosmo Kramer, I’m fine with it. I should be; this marks 10 years of Russ Reid conferences for me.
Over the decade, my comfort at these things has increased. I’m becoming practised at rising above my introversion. But even if this wasn’t the case, I’d still enjoy coming. Yes, the setting is salutary, but most of all I enjoy meeting and listening to people from across North America who do what I do, who have come naturally or intentionally to the vocation of relieving certain aspects of human misery—which means raising resources to that end. And our partner here is Russ Reid, an organization (largest of its kind) dedicated to helping missions like ours flourish. In effect they’re partners in offering real hope to homeless and destitute people. Russ Reid, incidentally, was once an Edmontonian and an acquaintance of Herb Jamieson, a Hope Mission patriarch.
Coming here also restores a certain faith in American people for me. Well, it’s my own lack of reasoning and imagination that this occasionally needs restoring. But perhaps I’m not so different. While we Canadians—when stopping to think—know there are millions of grand-hearted people in the States, it sometimes slips away from us because of the caricature we get from the politicized broadcasts of FOX and CNN—not to mention the sudsy culture of Hollywood. But coming here, and hearing from and seeing hundreds of people who have invested themselves in caring for homeless people is always hopeful and redemptive.
Russ Reid is Hope Mission’s (and close to a hundred other mission’s) partner in the business of fundraising. Or as I prefer: the bizarre vocation of convincing people to follow their deepest desire—bringing them the joy of being the cause of someone’s welfare through the simple act of giving.
And as in every vocation, there are some virtuosos here. Some dazzlingly skilled women and men who have come up through the ranks of frontline inner-city work, or have cultivated a certain humility of mind and character, or both. Whose presence enjoins a particular open-handed posture and invites another into the vision of relieving human misery. And this presence—which is nothing other than a gospel presence—is aptly represented in the leadership and all the staff of Russ Reid.
Now I occasionally have caught myself thinking, and I suspect I’m not alone, that the nature of what we do has an elevation to it. A sort of mark that distinguishes. Of course this is a great danger. And if it’s not caught the "industry" of fundraising takes over and "technique" becomes the driving force; and a chasm opens between the thing we hope to happen and those we need to make it happen, and both it and we become an ugly thing.
This is how fundraising can loose its spirituality—the invitation to join in communal caring, if not continually nourished and pruned, can too quickly devolve into mere manipulation. Well, guilt works for awhile; and if it’s creatively-clever-guilting, it works better. But this kind of fundraising is momentary and has no lasting appeal, no vision.
Certainly, all the creative work is necessary, as well as the research, and too, the science. And when this is joined to a narrative compellingly relating the hard inhumanity of homelessness and the real possibilities of restoration, people connect and respond. What is happening here is that a vision for relief of human despair and the bolstering of liberty is being articulated’; and when the vision is articulated well it touches on something greater than either asker or giver, and a community of love forms and money—the great classifier—is relegated to its proper corner, and the important rises up.
This is the kind of ardent air I don’t mind breathing.