We recognise the humanity of each person who comes through the door, and we acknowledge the whole story that has brought them here. We say, “Wherever you have been, whatever you have been, you are welcome.”
We began with an idea of what it might look like to do something good in Wellington. We met together and agreed on the vision of a relational environment that we hoped would be life-giving and sustainable—a space we are proud to invite other people into.
A CULTURE OF LEARNING
When we welcome people to become part of this community, their character and our experiences with them will shape us. When our initial, hopeful vision meets the reality of people’s lives, we learn what we didn’t plan for, and the culture of our community adapts and matures through our experiences of the good and the difficult parts of our relationships.
Instant results don’t tend to last. In an age of transience, we choose to tether ourselves to a particular place and the people who come here, seeking transformation that will endure. If you cannot see yourself deeply rooted in your community in ten years’ time, are you really a part of it now?
None of us have all the answers, solutions, and gifts to see humanity flourish. We each have only a part of the picture, so we must rely on one another. We don’t enter into friendship with the purpose of fixing someone, or because of what we think they have to offer us.
We intentionally create space for passive recipients to become active participants. ‘We’ do not go over ‘there’ to help ‘them.’ The majority of our volunteer leaders—those who tirelessly serve and give the most—first arrived at our doors in need.
We set aside specific times to celebrate the special nature of our everyday life together. These moments provide a chance to retell our story and honour people who have grown and given of themselves to serve the community.
BELIEVING THE BEST
We can be quick to judge, especially when we don’t have all the facts, which can lead to toxic community dynamics. We strive to give each other the benefit of the doubt and work to find out what truly happened, rather than leaping to the worst conclusions.
Open communication is incredibly important. We don’t keep secrets, instead, we lean into the tough and potentially awkward conversations, cultivating a culture of honest feedback that allows our community to grow and flourish.
Where there has been hurt, whether caused intentionally or unintentionally, we always seek out the path that restores relationships. We don’t discard friends when things get difficult, we invest ourselves deeper in the messy-but-real work of community.
SAFETY IN RELATIONSHIP
We cultivate our community as a place of safety for everyone. When people cross a boundary in a way that can’t be worked out in good faith, sometimes we do have to break relationship with them, temporarily or permanently.
We don’t tolerate violence or cruelty, particularly the especially insidious, subversive behaviours that subtly eat away at peace, whether it be physical violence, aggression, demeaning language, threatening glares, apathy, manipulation, or avoidance.
We are not a ‘charity’ and we do not have ‘clients’—we are a community of friends caring for one another. A whānau, even. Putting relationship at the heart of all of our efforts to help others reminds us that “people are not problems to be solved, but friends to know.”
You can read more about the heartbeat of The Free Store at www.thefreestore.org.nz