What do school kids, supporters, and the homeless have in common?

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Earlier this week I attended a training for manning the warming shelters that we are opening in St. Johns this week. With temperatures holding below freezing and snow on the ground as I type this there is a huge need for warm places to sleep for the homeless community in Portland. One of the things that struck me at the training was how similar the language was to other areas of my life. Settling disputes between folks at the shelter was oddly reminiscent of dealing with disagreements on the playground at the boys school. When it came to mediating arguments over stolen gear the same steps were ones I learned when dealing with drunk supporters in the Timbers Army. It seems that where ever i spend my time lately I am working with same mentality. A grade school playground is the same as a rabid supporters section is the same as a homeless shelter working with the chronic homeless.

Now I know that much of these tips for settling disputes are universally true and that common sense and a level head will get you far, i still thought it was funny how a like these seemingly different groups are. On the last game of the season I had to try to help a guy who was pushed by an older woman for not singing for the full 90. He was drunk and unreasonable and wanted her thrown out. It reminded me of the first graders that had taken all they could from an unreasonable kindergartener. In both instances I had to listen to the whole story, without interrupting so they could feel heard and vent a little. I found places to agree and connect before trying to find a middle ground. These were all the tips on the slides of the warming shelter training.

I guess the lesson is that people are people are people right. We all need the same thing when we are frustrated: someone to hear us, someone to help us make it right. I do find it funny painting all three groups with the same brush though. The timbers Army IS just like a school playground most of the time, and disagreements of the shelter are the same ones I hear at recess. We are all just frustrated little kids looking for our own justice.

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