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  • Writer's pictureSweta Patel

Empathy in Action: Building Bridges, Changing Lives

Rory speaks. Sweta writes. How one addict's story raises questions for reflection for any one of us.

Rory - Guest Speaker at The Landing's 2023 Hope Gala

(Founded by Holly and Dan Fifield, The Landing MN exists to build trust, give hope, and support steps towards stability for those experiencing homelessness.)


Rory, once homeless himself, shares the raw truth: We know we look different. We know we smell. We know we're messed up. We see the woman with her child, scooting her aside quickly. We see it all.

Back in the mid-90s, with a crack addiction, Rory bounced from shelter to shelter, just grateful for a bed to lie down on. But what Holly and Dan Fifield recently founded at The Landing is a softer place to land.

They wrap their arms around the whole human who walks through the doors with:

* a safe space from the elements

* 3 meals a day

* toiletries and clothing

* shower and laundry facilities

* on-site medical care, social services, and a legal assistance kiosk

* haircuts and foot care through partnerships

Just the four walls of a shelter aren't enough. Neither are the four walls of a classroom.

I'm grateful to teach at the Rochester Alternative Learning Center (ALC), a community school within our district. Our students are often behind in credits and struggle with attendance. But we know that school success goes beyond the classroom itself. Onsite, we also offer: a medical clinic, mental health therapist, chemical health specialist, daycare, clothing and hygiene items, food pantry, washer/dryer, shower, housing specialist, college advisor, Driver's Ed, night school, social workers, counselors, and more. We get to know the students and learn what they each need.

For the person who feels broken or less than--whether they're stumbling into The Landing or shuffling down the ALC hallways--Rory reminds us of what saved him: These relationships, these people that cared, that looked me in the face and treated me like a human being...


For All of Us: When you're tempted to judge others or feel frustrated, pause and consider the whole human: What's their story? What are their unmet needs? What resources could bridge the gap? How might we help them?

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