Have you ever been a situation where
1. Let’s say you have had a bad experience with somebody – for example, you had to ask for directions and that somebody shouted at you for asking the directions. So, now you are afraid of asking directions. You use your previous interaction to frame your current interactions.
2. You have felt scared inside, but you put a brave face and went on about it. Can you think of one situation in your life when you were not sure of how things are done, but you went about it like you have done it a dozen times? For me, it was ordering my first subway sandwich – coming straight from India; it was an ordeal.
3. You have looked at somebody and assessed where they fit in the interaction models that pre-exist in your mind. For example, this person is reading a book – People who read books are friendly people so I can trust them.
I am sure most of you can say yes to all the three situations before. Now, what if I told you that the youth experiencing homelessness could also say yes to the above situations. Yes, our circumstances might be vastly different but we are experiencing the same feelings, emotions and we come from the same space.
For those of you who don’t know – Adam and I (along with a few other great people) have embarked on a journey to establish a social enterprise (Wild Tiger Tees) which employs youth experiencing homelessness to screen print t-shirt. Our ultimate goal is to get them out of homelessness entirely. We are taking one step at a time – build a relationship and a sustainable business model first – coach and mentor the youth for long-term success. We do not know if we will be successful or not but its a start of something for sure. Like anything new – this has been the foremost thought in my mind chatter in the recent days.
The first thing that struck me was that I was as afraid of approaching these youth as they were of me. And that led me to see other things that we have in common. Surprise! Surprise! We have a lot more in common than I ever imagined – at the end of the day we are all going through the same human predicament, and suffering is the one common thread we have.
What Wild Tiger Tees is trying to do is to fill in a gap that exists in our society – for reasons beyond our control we have youth experiencing homelessness in our society. And there is no structure in place currently that encourages, enables and empowers these youth to integrate back into the society – in some ways, it is like two different worlds, and there is no bridge across them. Before I got involved in this enterprise, I was not even aware of this other world except in passing.
In our society we have a set structure of how life works – you graduate, you have campus placements – interviews, and then you get a job. But there is nothing of this sort that exists for the youth we are working with – they are an untapped workforce that we have not figured out how to integrate into our current workforce.
What we are trying to do is to build the bridge across our two worlds which have more similarities than differences.