I won’t lie, this story got me. It’s trade-oriented, emotional, a story of renewal, redemption, an actual possible resource for labor if you work in and around Chi-Town. And, in the words of The Man in Black, after watching the video, “I come away with a different point of view.”
“Revolution Workshop, a non-profit jobs training program, teaches Chicagoans, many of whom are former offenders, drug users and homeless residents, to create custom handmade furniture and other construction skills.”
It also got me thinking. Thinking about how lucky I am…
“What’s going on in the streets?” One trainee is asked. “Nothing…” he begins.
“Nothing” shot through me. I’ve seen it. Surely, we all have. For those of us who haven’t lived it, can you imagine “nothing”? Growing up, I had a BMX bike with a baseball card pinned to the fork and plenty of kids to go ride it with. I had enough to eat.
After “nothing” his list gets worse.
But, “What do you see in the eyes of these trainees?” Chair Dan Miller is asked. “Hope. Love. Perseverance.”
Anybody who knows me, knows I’m an expert at making mistakes, but to hear Director Manny Rodriguez’s perspective on his trainees’ upbringing gave me pause too: “Their backgrounds make my background look like I grew up in The Hamptons.” (For those unfamiliar with The Hamptons, movie stars and hedge-fund dudes have mansions full of money there).
Finally, this one. It’s easy to claim the moral high ground when you see somebody who’s been in the can. It’s easy to assume somebody with an ankle bracelet is a bad person—heck, the government says so; they had to go away; it’s impossible not make a judgment—but I never thought about it like this:
Board Chair Dan Miller doesn’t call them criminals or ex-cons or losers, rather “Many of the folks we’re helping are survivors.” The bold is mine.
So maybe there are a whole bunch of framers or furniture makers or diggers of dirt waiting for you to find them. Maybe there are people so hungry to turn nothing into something they’ll be there when you call. And show up early. Every day. Because something is better than nothing, a nothing that only gets worse.
Maybe. I hope we’d all like to think so.
This article originally appeared in Tools of the Trade.