Each month, on Tuesdays, I hope to write about someone in my life, in history, or otherwise who has influenced me, inspired me, or challenged me in some way (maybe all three!). Since I was on retreat on Tuesday and most of today (Wednesday) of this week, I'm moving my post-topics around a bit.
This week, I've been thinking a lot about Lisa Gustaveson who I mention in my post on Monday. I worked with Lisa in 2011-2012 at Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry. She and I shared an office for that time; I was the program manager for Inter-religious dialogue and she was/still is the program manager for the Faith and Family Homelessness Project. I am deeply thankful for the time I spent working with Lisa. Her witness and her ministry continue to inspire me.
Lisa Gustaveson is program manager for Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry’s Faith and Family Homelessness Project. Funded by a multi-year commitment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project is a concentrated effort to inspire increased advocacy and care around the issue of family homelessness in the greater Puget Sound faith community. Prior to joining the project, Lisa was Director of Communications for Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, the largest private social service agency in the state. Over her almost 20 year career, Lisa has held leadership and consulting positions with nonprofit agencies and state, county, and city governments. As project manager for the Committee to End Homelessness in King County, she successfully managed the development of a groundbreaking regional strategy to end homelessness. Lisa has a Masters degree from Seattle University in Not-for-Profit Leadership.As a passionate advocate for children and vulnerable men and women, Lisa prays for the day when “camping” means pitching a tent in the forest – not a survival mechanism for people experiencing homelessness. She fights for policies and practices that give all people access to safe housing, healthy food and medical care. She resides in Seattle with her husband Bill, daughter Darcy, a couple of adorable kittens and a little dog named Cooper. (Lisa's Bio)
Not only was working with Lisa a joy (gluten-free cupcake breaks, lunches out, adventures around the city, housing sitting for her adorable kittens!), Lisa also taught me so much about faithfulness--in the way she lives her life, speaks her truth, and embodies her faith.
One day, when we were taking a mid-morning break to get some fresh air and caffeinate up at the local coffee shop, we walked past a man, in his late thirties or early forties, selling Real Change a newspaper about economic justice that employs people experiencing poverty and/or homelessness. Lisa reached into her purse and pulled out a dollar, the cost of the newspaper, bought a copy and chatted with the guy for a few minutes. "Have you read this?" She asked me later, handing it over to me. "Its worth a read. I try to buy one when they come out each week." Just like that, like it was the most normal thing in the world.
Here in Boston, there is a similar newspaper called Spare Change. I see folks selling it as I walk out of the subway. Most people keep their heads down and blow past who ever is selling. Every so often I see someone stop, buy a copy and talk. For most people, just talking to someone on the margins isn't the most normal thing in the world.
The title of my blog comes from several different sources including a quote by George Fox "Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one." Lisa is someone who as Parker Palmer would put it, "lets [her] life speak" in just this way.
Lisa's project with the School of Theology and Ministry works with a long list of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities to support individual community creative action in the hope to end family homelessness. She runs trainings, networking programs, and helps each community understand the specifics needs they should consider with each of their projects. I'm reading a few books about leadership right now, and in one, Leadership and the New Science by Margaret J. Wheatley, Wheatley talks about how a leader "needs faith that they can accomplish their purposes in varied ways and that they do best when they focus on intent and vision, letting forms emerge and disappear." Lisa set up her project with the intent and vision of ending family homelessness at its center and had faith in each of these groups to create the forms that best fit their communities.
I've seen Lisa often have this sense of faith in people; whether it is the graduate students who work with her, the faith communities in her project, or the people experiencing homelessness that she meets on the street. She is, as George Fox put it, a pattern and example to me; an example of how to meet that of God in each person.
Here in Boston, at the church where I work, one of the ministries that the church focuses on is homelessness. Its a ministry that is hard to entice passion for, particularly in a community that so disconnected from the experience of homelessness. I am daily reminded of the gift that Lisa is to the Seattle community with her faith, drive, wisdom, and experience. I am daily reminded of the gift that Lisa is and has been in my life, teaching me about leadership, about faithfulness, and about being in this world. Much love to you dear friend!