Gwen Austin: Deepening Our Understanding Of The
Posted by Bindi Dave on Jul 6, 2015
Gwen Austin is a community builder and social justice advocate with Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), an organization in Berkeley, California that helps homeless and disabled people achieve health and self-sufficiency, as well as fights the root causes of poverty and homelessness.
One example, Gwen spent thirty minutes speaking with a group of homeless people, forfeiting the negative impulses to take flight (or run away) from them, to fight them, or to freeze and not know what to do, she was able to look deeply into each persons eyes, losing the adjective of “homeless” or “homefull”, and just see this human as a being, just like you and I. A human with a story, a life, a love, a breath.
In any conversation or interaction, there must at least be two parties. Gwen is one party in this exchange, the people that she was embracing are the other party. They have feelings and the ability to perform similar actions as her, in regards to flight, fight or freeze.
Upon her mindful embrace towards them, they embraced her back; magic, a connection was made.
Gwen shifted careers and went to school to become an English teacher at the young age of thirty. Her aspiration to teach was revealed to her at a very young age, cultivating humanitarian and human-loving skills throughout her life.
After further educations, Gwen was introduced to to a Social Justice Class. For many years before being introduced to this class, Gwen worked for-profit, as many of us do; creating a false sense of reality of the world around us. Once that bubble popped, Gwen began to see what was actually going on in our society; shifting attention from LV bags and Benz’s to a “class” of people that seemed to be entirely forgotten about. She found her realness, truthfulness, honesty; which was masked by the structure of the corporate world, asking for more and more. What is beyond “more”? Some would say nothing. Gwen said “people who were treated unjustly and how our society sets us up for failure in some respects. And we don't pay enough attention to those who are unable to take care of themselves for the most part or unable to navigate through life's challenges with disabilities of sorts”.
Upon recognizing this gap in our society, Gwen found her “clarity where [she] realized [her] purpose is to do something different”. Different she did; but not immediately. She attempted to fight the Universe and continue down the eduction path. When she finally did surrender to the Universe, the path said, "Stop, listen, and let me guide you”.
A waterfall of opportunities flowed her way! Not “opportunities where there is all this money; [she was] talking about opportunities to help people realize their truth whatever their truth is. Their truth is not [her] truth. [Her] truth is [hers]. [She] owns that. [Her] role as a steward of this land is to help people in a very encouraging a positive way to realize that being homeless does not define who you are. There is so much more to you, so [she] encourages them [the homeless] in many ways, and [she] takes them in baby steps and looks at them and talks to them. [She] gives them resources, who to call. [She} tries to help them as much as [she] can”.
“When you really, really listen to someone you can hear what they are not saying.” Gwen listen’s, love’s, pays attention and gives to a community that is otherwise left to very minimal devices of their own. “Everyone on this earth has a responsibility to move our world into a place where we are loving each other no matter what the differences are.” If we cast love out into the Universe, love will be cast back. What we cast out of us comes back. Gwen has made it a life journey to share her heart, and that journey has inspired many to gift as well. With love there is no room for hate. With warmth there is no room for cold. With friendship, there is less room for ill-will.
Gwen’s “role is to listen with the heart rather than with the ears”. If more of us listen this way, imagine the things that we would hear!
This life happens only once. Our actions and impressions may remain immortal through storytelling and our works. May our impressions be ones filled with love, and our life be spent in service of others, as love and service our our human birthrights.