Oasis is a good place to learn humility. You can arrive with lots of ideas about how to make things better and changes that need to be made. Now, there is always room for improvement and we have made a number of successful improvements to our programs. But more often than I would like to admit, things don’t work out as planned. One of my early ideas was to move to an appointment system for the food bank like that used at another local agency. I pushed, we planned, I pushed, we consulted, I pushed, we surveyed, I pushed and we discussed. The advantages were obvious: more time to spend with each community member and avoiding the crushing rush we have when we open our doors. I remember pushing our summer students two years ago very hard on the subject despite their initial misgivings about how it would work. In the end I was finally persuaded by the team that imposing any sort of appointment system on our community members would become a barrier to their being able to access food.
Similarly we have been trying to provide toiletries an hour after we open to induce people to not all arrive when the doors open. Very few community members changed their behaviour as a result of the inducement. And putting out the toiletries after people had gone through the line produced more than one conflict from community members who did not “get” what we were trying to accomplish. They just wanted what we were giving others.
So when you become involved in a ministry like Oasis you have to quickly learn that one’s brilliant ideas are sometimes just plain foolish.