This is a reflection from Katie, an intern who started a few months ago….Here are her first impressions of what it’s like to walk into a Starfire circle:
“Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.” -The Fray
Starfire is located in Madisonville in a very pleasant building. What makes Starfire’s space pleasing to me is mainly the abundance of windows. These windows allow for plenty of natural lighting creating a bright and cheerful ambiance. There are also many rooms available for work, meetings, and activities. Beyond being aesthetically pleasing, Starfire is filled with extremely kind and friendly people, making it an overall delightful place to spend time. But what if this was where you spent the majority of your time whenever you weren’t at home? What if you passed through these bright halls and saw these same friendly faces multiple times a week for years? It wouldn’t matter how pleasant the building was or how nice the people were, there would be something that was missing.
As human beings we are social creatures that are in need of a sense of belonging, a regular chance to meet new people, and opportunities to form relationships- platonic and romantic. So as great as Starfire’s home base in Madisonville is, what would it mean for people if that was all that Starfire had to offer them. Sure, it would be safe and free of risk to gather people at the same place every day where there is a controlled environment, but where is the growth and opportunity in that? Where is the possibility for connection? This is where the fear of the unknown has to be pushed aside and the idea of shared places is put in its place.
Before I was introduced to Starfire I would not have thought twice about having people meet at Starfire every day. It sounds like a great idea to me, a pleasant space with kind people to help people with disabilities have a better life. Yet, the first thing I learned at Starfire is that a better life is not at 5030 Oaklawn Drive, Cincinnati, OH, it is anywhere but. By this I mean that there is no one place that people can be sent to have a better life, because a better life is all around us on front porches, at parks, in coffee shops, at the grocery store, in a yoga studio, in the work place, and so much more.
Every person who is a part of Starfire is a pioneer and a trailblazer who is trying to break the pattern of how people with disabilities are excluded by society. So, what is Starfire doing instead of meeting at the same place every day? They are asking themselves, “How can we take people to the community instead of just staying at Starfire?” People with and without disabilities are getting together and choosing different projects and interests to create their own shared places in the community. It is all about gathering at cafes, parks, and neighbor’s porches because these are the places that have the possibility for connection. However, connection and relationships are not just found because a person is brought to a coffee shop, there is so much more to it. It takes showing up, and not just once, but continuously, being open to meeting others, allowing for complete inclusion, and not being afraid to be hospitable and the welcomer.
As easy as it would be to create a community within the walls of Starfire on Oaklawn Drive, it would not be benefiting people who already have a hard enough time being isolated by society. “We have to find strength in the struggle,” said Tim part of Starfire’s staff. It has to be known that just because the intentions are there to do something great, it doesn’t mean it will happen easily. Shared places in the community take a lot of time and effort, but once they are created they can have a profound effect on all that are involved. I am about to experience my first Starfire shared place this evening as I attend Amanda’s “Sip N Sketch” at a coffee shop in Northside. I know that Amanda repeatedly worked long and hard on this project to create a place that involved her passion for drawing and art. Stay tuned for my next post which will be about my experience at Amanda’s “Sip N Sketch”.