One Truly Beautiful Thing

Homelessness is human suffering. You cannot spin human suffering. But you can still decide to do one truly beautiful thing. Maybe that is once per day. Maybe once per week. Heck, maybe once a year.


If I say “do one truly beautiful thing” to most people and they think of something exceptional…outside the norm. I am not surprised when they think of charity. Beauty, in my opinion, is best when it lasts. Beauty is best when it is something deeper than how we value or turn most things we like into commodities.


We are made up of small changes, incrementally feeding into the behaviour of the person we choose to be. If you do one truly beautiful thing in those small changes, you can relate more honestly with human suffering.


Our shared humanity is our beauty. I am not better or worse than any person I serve. I have a different address. I will not pathologize any perception of affliction or issue in a person’s life. I will not give in to those who would have me see homelessness as a character flaw.


Doing one truly beautiful thing is scary. At the root of most of our work area bunch of cold calculations – how are we going to use which technique to improve a person’s life today or even get them out of homelessness. In fact, some are so entrenched in the condition of their homelessness that you can watch others give up on even trying to do a beautiful thing to change their practice to engage better.


For almost a year now I have been doing one truly beautiful thing each month. I think of one area of my professional life (blogging, training, engaging with people that are homeless so that other practitioners can see my approach, meeting with senior leaders, process diagrams, evaluation, grant writing, policies and procedures, etc.) and think of how I can truly add more beauty to one part of it. To add beauty to something, I have given myself the following conditions:


  • The improvement has to be more emotional meaningful than it previous was;
  • It has to be authentic, not contrived or forced;
  • With perspective I feel a great emotional connection than I otherwise would.


I am never going to be the touchy-feeler social work type. But that does not mean that beauty is lost on me or that I am incapable of deliberately trying to do beautiful things. When surrounded by human suffering, I owe the world manufactured beauty, because, to paraphrase King, only light can erase darkness.

About Iain De Jong

Iain is a playful nerd, hellbent on ending homelessness, increasing affordable housing, creating vibrant communities, and expanding the knowledge amongst leaders that influence social issues. Having held senior management and professional positions in government, non-profits, and the private sector, Iain has a wealth of experience and has garnered dozens of awards for his work across Canada and internationally. His work has taken him across Canada, the United States, and to Australia. In 2009, Iain joined OrgCode as its President & CEO, and in 2014 assumed full ownership of the firm. In addition to his work with OrgCode, Iain holds a part-time faculty position in the Graduate Urban Planning Programme at York University.

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