Bless the frontline folks


Flicking boogers. Through years of working with people — many people, I’ve noticed this habitual pattern: Nonprofits, faith communities, and corporations (humanity) often flick people with difficult behaviors and situations off to others with referrals, deflecting or excuses related to fit. To be fair, this happens in relationships and even intimate family systems, too.

It’s rare in these times of slick branding, quick texts, and online perceptions to have people or systems that go the long haul with you in healing, recovery, change, transformation or anything that goes below this surface level. Finding someone or an organization who walks alongside, in even the deepest streams and the roughest waters, now that’s a rare find.

Those near have heard me speak of a dear United Methodist clergy peer who once shared with me a moment of “unplasticking” in her life. “I got tired of surface living,” she said. We began ending our correspondence with a motivating mantra: deep love, deep healing, deep peace — kind of a dedication for our lifework. A commitment to actually live the “deeps.”

When we shift to become the frontline folks (instead of the backseaters) who work with people who perpetually fall through the cracks, we yield to the glossy culture to become a more archetypal Christlike presence. Frontline with those experiencing poverty, frontline with the non-beautiful, frontline with rigorous imperfection — we truly are love embodied.

In my work, we see people who have been flicked all over the place. Knowing we are imperfect, I know I’ve been part of some flicking, too. In Seinfeld’s episode on nose-picking, “the Pick Story,” Jerry speaks of the humiliation of being a picker and flicker. Let’s face it. We all pick and flick sometimes. Humans aren’t wired to go deep all of the time, and we really don’t enjoy discomfort, let alone looking ugly right in the eyes. Ugly injustice. Ugly unfairness. Plain ugly — we just don’t like it. But, what if we each did our part, less flicking and more staying with people until they are safe, until there’s more beauty in view, until that one person in our care has made the passage home.

Rev. gwyn stetler is executive director of Family Promise of Delaware County, which operates Promise House Delaware and Impact Station Marysville by offering diversion, prevention, housing stabilization and now providing 56 beds of emergency housing leading to permanent stable housing while building communities and strengthening lives. If you are having a housing crisis contact [email protected]. She is also co-pastor of Jubilee Mennonite Church.

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