From one day to the next, all of us strive to live out our values. Sometimes the gap between the “talk” and the “walk” is larger than at other times, and we might feel shame or frustration at our failings. But these instances are also opportunities for growth. Below, Jaime Yslas, a Navy Veteran and recent graduate of Seattle U’s School of Theology and Ministry, reflects on the grace and understanding that comes from embracing one’s own flawed humanity.
Jaime is a passionate advocate for veterans in our region and is on the leadership team of One Less Mountain, a non-profit that puts on the Seattle Stand Down, an event where homeless and at-risk veterans are supported and served (this year, on December 11th and 12th, at Seattle Central College; click here for more info). Recently, Jaime attended a workshop on accompanying those in the margins facilitated by Kae Eaton called “The Way of Companionship: a way of approaching each other as human beings and souls of infinite worth and value.” Kae is Chaplain for Mental Health Chaplaincy, an ecumenical ministry providing companioning presence, spiritual support and education to the vulnerable in our community.
Kae will be leading a workgroup called “Companionship: Practicing Active Listening and Presence” at our upcoming December 7th event: “Faith-Based Solutions to Family Homelessness: What’s next?” Register today and learn more on December 7th!
By Jaime Yslas
It was a Saturday and I was on my way to a workshop to learn about accompanying those on the margins. The subject was apropos because I am currently involved in efforts to support the homeless in Seattle. I did not eat breakfast at home, but stopped at a local fast food franchise on Capital Hill to grab something before the workshop.
The restaurant was crowded and I was annoyed because many of the people appeared to be homeless and they were slowing down the line with their fumbling for money and talking loudly among themselves. Some were poking around in the trash receptacles, looking for coffee cups since the restaurant provided free refills with a cup. I felt like my precious quiet breakfast was being sullied…
As I climbed into my car, I was overwhelmed with shame at my reaction – especially because of where I was going, to a workshop on accompanying those very people. I felt that I had been in their midst and I had failed. I did not greet a single person. I did not offer to buy breakfast for anyone. I don’t think I even looked anyone in the eye. I recoiled because my actions did not match my ideals.
And how did the workshop go? I learned that companionship is a response to suffering and isolation. I heard that accompaniment is a human relationship which supports recovery and maximum wellness. I learned this must be a public relationship. Most of all, I realized how even a flawed vessel such as I, a person who becomes annoyed when his precious bubble of privilege is threatened, can still be of use in this work. In fact, it is seeing our own flaws that may allow us to accompany those in the margins. We are not so different.
Jaime Yslas is a graduate (MA in Transformational Leadership, ’14) of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry. He is an AmeriCorps volunteer serving with Washington Vet Corps at Seattle University. A Navy Veteran, he is also on the leadership team of One Less Mountain, a non-profit which puts on the Seattle Stand Down, an event where homeless and at-risk Veterans are supported and served.