Three Common Security Clubs at Economy Ground Zero

Posted January 14, 2010 in Blog, Story

“I can offer, but I can’t receive,” lamented Barbara to her Resilience Circle in Portland, Oregon.  She was facing a difficult move, alone, and her group was trying to persuade her to accept their help.  She seemed both embarassed, and ashamed of feeling embarassed.

“It takes all five sessions {of the CSC curriculum} to get to the depth of relationship where we’ll examine a feeling like that,” said their facilitator, Jared, revealing a sentiment we often hear from CSC facilitators–the shame we feel in our culture about seeming vulnerable financially, unable to “manage on our own.”

Jared Gardner, a busy organizer in Portland, launched four CSCs in his church. Two of them were comprised almost entirely of unemployed people. By the time his own group had met five times, they were planning tours of local co-housing projects, organizing to fight locally for progressive taxation, and wondering how to bring the rest of their church into the time bank they had created.  All four groups are gathering at the end of this month to connect socially, and then decide how to proceed.

In Boston, another church is experimenting with merging two Resilience Circles. Both groups have continued long after finishing the curriculum, finding their groups to be a place of refuge in a difficult economy.

Mutual aid on many levels keeps the groups busy.  One member got a lot of advice, as well as ready volunteers, in creating her own business as a personal organizer. Two active seniors have wrangled with their needs for more income, and the desire to keep working as social workers after retirement, in balance with a desire for rest and free time. One of them was persuaded–reluctantly!–to give up her car in favor of a local car-sharing business, saving her $500/month. Contacts, connections and ideas are abundant.  This month members are getting ready to host a workshop to connect the whole community with a city-wide time bank, to further the reach of a budding “alternative economy” they have helped to create.

In Ft Lauderdale, Florida, Reverend Gail Tapscott brought together church members who were terribly affected by the financial crisis, facing unemployment and loss of their homes, with other for whom the crisis was still mainly abstract. This mix led to some interesting connections, and in one case a comfortable homeowner offered space in his house to a father and son who were in serious financial trouble.

“During one meeting we discussed the Starfish story, you know the one, where a man is standing on the beach throwing starfish back into the ocean,” Tapscott related. “Another man, passing by, asks why he’s wasting his time, tells him he can’t possibly make a difference. In response, the man picks up a starfish and throws it back, saying ‘I think I made a difference for that starfish.’  Later that night, the gentleman in our group who had taken in two others told me he was ‘just trying to help a couple of starfish.’”