The change in seasons brings anticipation of good things to come. And change can be as beautifully exciting as the turning of the leaves in October; you know that good things are around the corner. But it can also be difficult. The process of creating a Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Neighborhood (TIIN) has involved cycles of promise, waiting, fulfillment, and anticipation. Hope & A Future’s vision for a new care model is a pioneering effort to address the needs of young and old and to bring them together in mutually beneficial ways, as Generations of Purpose. Significantly our model also helps to address the staffing crisis in Wisconsin.
We are excited to offer something new in our vision for a new care model. However, pioneering also means pushing through uncharted territory, which can be as thrilling as a cold and rainy day in fall.
When Paula Reif and I started working on this project in 2002, many people looked at us with a head tilt and said, “What do you mean by intergenerational?” And, “Why do you want to bring young and old together?” Thankfully, all kinds of people have been trying to bring the generations together in many different ways and there is now ample research pointing to the benefits! But the kind of neighborhood we are trying to put together is still pioneering on a number of fronts and we have been held up by policies that were written without imagining or knowing that they would one day stand in our way.
Last month we wrote about our first business consultant from the small business development center—Linda Davis. As she moved Paula and I along in the business of researching and writing for our business plan, she one day said, “Now you will have to find an architect to draw out plans for how this neighborhood might look—so you can begin to figure out how much land you will need and how much this will cost to build". My first thoughts were; “that sounds expensive and I have never even met an architect.” I think I said that and Linda smiled and said, “You will figure it out.”
This reminds me of why I thought about this idea for years without trying to move it forward—not enough money, know how or connections! So I began to pray things like, “God, this was your idea and I like it. It looks like I need your help to find an architect. And this scares me because I am pretty sure I do not have money to pay for something like this!” As I prayed, a person’s face kept coming to mind and I finally remembered where I had seen him. He was an architect who had once presented an idea in our church. I remembered watching him and thinking I could almost see him imagining how people would interact in the drawn spaces and I liked that. I did not know his name and brought my memory up to Paula. Although Paula and I did not know each other when this person presented, it turned out she was also there and she thought she might know someone that knew him. It turned out she was right and we got his name and phone number.
I remained nervous about talking to him--mainly because I did not know if we could afford to pay for his work. The fear was wrapped up in some kind of self-sufficiency pride that was not helpful. It was a humbling lesson—but I have since learned that it is OK to ask for and receive help when it is needed. It gets back to the important notion that we all need each other. And Paula and I were at a point in our business plan that we would not be able to finish it without an architects help. I finally looked at Paula one day and said, “This phone call still scares me. So, I was wondering--since I am the President of this idea and you are the Vice President of the idea, can I delegate this task to you?” We both laughed pretty hard, but thankfully Paula agreed to make the call. We decided to tell him up front that we had no idea how much his work would cost or if we would be able to pay him. It seemed less scary to at least be honest!
A few days later Paula called and said, “Well I called Mike and he agreed to meet us, but he wants to meet us at his home. He said his wife would be there.” It seemed unusual, but we agreed and set a date.
I still remember the warm welcome into their lovely home. Mike let us in and Deb was knitting on the couch. It felt especially inviting as we were coming out of cold and rainy fall weather. Mike explained why he wanted us to meet at their home. It turned out that his daughter was a single head of household and was living with her sons in a neighborhood that did not seem safe to him. He prayed about how he could help and felt led to build a home with a central great room/dining and kitchen area and a wing for himself and Deb and another wing for his daughter and grandsons. This arrangement allowed them to be a support system to their daughter’s young family and everyone could still have privacy. I cannot tell you how overwhelmed Paula and I were that the architect we landed on understood our mission and vision on such a deep heart level. My eyes are tearing up with the memory of that very special night.
Paula and I shared our vision and Mike and Deb teared up from time to time too. It was a meeting of hearts. At the end of our visit, Mike told us he no longer took jobs without praying about them first and that we could expect to hear his decision in about a week.
Paula and I left, sure he would help and overwhelmed with what we knew to be God’s leading. Driving home it was raining hard and it was difficult to see the dark country roads. An old pick-up truck eventually showed up in front of us. This was a relief because following was a lot easier than figuring out where the road was on our own. Paula said, “the way this night turned out I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that Jesus himself was driving that truck to lead us home safely!” We laughed but then looked at each other thinking—what if?!
A week later Mike called me to say that he would do the footprints for us and that he was not going to charge for his work. Oh my! This was a feeling of being blessed I had never experienced before. Paula and I both felt that God had our backs! Yet, I was still too proud to ask Mike what footprints were. I googled it, but all I got was footprints in the sand!
Some weeks later, Mike said he had the footprints ready to show us. (Pictured above) We decided on a date for dinner at my house. We already had our Christmas tree up and I remember buying everyone a clear glass heart ornament (at the dollar store!) for their table setting.
Still not knowing what footprints were, I asked God to show me. Silence. Until, a few days before our dinner. I was reading in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 40. And there was a scaled drawing of a floor plan for a temple. The temple was never built but was a model of interaction between people and God. I looked at it, and in that still small voice came the impressed thought, “like that.” A couple of weeks had passed between my question and the answer, but since God does not deal with time, I assumed that footprints are, a drawing mapped out to scale.
Together with our families and the first senior that lived in our home, Mike and Deb sat down to a special Christmas time meal and Mike unveiled his drawing. It had a remarkable similarity to the footprints in Ezekiel. I laughed and shared my story about “footprints”.
Mike’s beautiful drawing gave us an idea of land needs and a rough estimate on cost. But, more importantly it gave us a helpful picture model for presenting to others how young and old could live together in a TIIN (Therapeutic, Interactive, Intergenerational, Neighborhood). Each family or individual would have opportunity for privacy and a safe place to come together. A safe place where diverse people could come together to learn, grow, create and express themselves. Organic relationships could form around shared needs and interests. A place for Generations of Purpose.
Mike and a co-worker Tom Jennings taught Paula and I how to present our ideas and space needs. They did such a good job that at our first presentation, people thought we were developers. In fact, we were hoping someone would develop this for us--so we could work there!
We are so grateful for their important help with this vision!
(Although this model, like Ezekil’s temple has not been built, it is a cherished piece of work and proved immensely helpful in furthering people’s understanding of the TIIN model. Mike did additional work for us on “almost” projects that did not work out for a variety of reasons. However each site taught us something and expanded our understanding of the work in front of us.)
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Written by members of the Hope & a Future community including residents, volunteers, and staff.