Let Us Work Together
By Jonathan Royal
“If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Lilla Watson
My first job was directing a small youth center in a low-income neighborhood. Every Monday we would host dinner for the young people of the area, usually welcoming more than 40 teenagers. These dinners were provided by meal teams from around the city, groups of people with a desire to connect with and serve the young people of this neighborhood. Frequently, meal teams were made up of people from suburban churches or new downtown developments.
At first glance, the people on the meal teams and the young people from the neighborhood had little in common. They were often divided by economics, culture, age, race and religion. Yet here they were each Monday night, eating dinner together shoulder to shoulder.
These dinners were not an act of charity by the meal teams, but rather an act of community by everyone. The young people from the neighborhood certainly appreciated and needed a free and healthy meal, but the far greater benefit of those dinners was the number of mutual connections made across the dividing lines of our city. I saw how members of those meal teams were transformed by building relationships with those young people, and vice versa.
The world of service, community engagement and philanthropy should never be defined by the helpers and the needy. At its best, service is about building bridges across divisions and healing wounds through mutual connection. Of course, physical needs must be met, and those with means should be invited to give their resources. But at the heart of everything is a common humanity and community, where one member’s need effects all of us, and another’s growth and healing are to the benefit of all.
Foundations, nonprofits, businesses, struggling neighborhoods and wealthy communities all share this mutual connection. It is part of our job to strengthen the bridges and to invite everyone into the common mission of knowing and supporting our neighbors.
Jonathan Royal joined El Pomar Foundation as a member of the 2019 Fellowship class. As a Fellow, Jonathan works on Regional Partnerships, Communications, and the Ackerman and Hambrick Funds. In addition, Jonathan supports the Central Peaks region and the Pikes Peak region. Read more about Jonathan here.