Organizational values are the principle beliefs that guide the daily behaviors and decisions within an organization. They shape culture, set expectations for interactions, and align individuals toward the organization’s mission, vision, and goals. At Camino, a bilingual nonprofit in Charlotte, NC, five core values define our organizational identity. Throughout this blog, we will focus on one in particular: “We Recycle.”
We live in a “replaceable” culture. When our clothes tear, we don’t mend them—we throw them away. At Camino, because we value people and resources, we don’t replace—we recycle.Definition of “We Recycle”
In today’s world, we throw away old magazines, glass bottles, plastic bags, people, soda cans, outdated clothes, and all sorts of things we no longer need. “Wait… What? We actually throw away people?” Well, I’m going to unpack that for you, but first, allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Ron Clark, and I’m currently a Peer Support Specialist at Camino. I’m also a proud Air Force Veteran, a North Carolina Certified Peer Support Facilitator, a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Facilitator, a QPR Suicide Preventative Instructor, and I have served on the state board for the National Alliance on Mental Illness for the last two months. In short, I help people in a number of ways. Now that you know a little about who I am, let’s talk about the replacement culture in which we live and what it means to throw people away.
In our community, some individuals may carry the weight of past wreckage, mental health disorders, substance use issues, or other challenges. Unfortunately, some organizations choose not to open their doors to these people, leaving them excluded from society and unwelcome. In other words, they are essentially “thrown away.”
However, that is not what happens at Camino. As a nonprofit, one of our core values is “We Recycle,” which is grounded in scripture:
“Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others”— Colossians 3:13
What this scripture means to me is that we don’t attack people—we attack the problem. People can’t go back and change the wreckage of their past, but they can change their patterns of destructive behavior, and we, as a society, can find a way to forgive them. These individuals have an experience that can be an asset to helping others dealing with similar struggles.
I know this to be true because of my personal experience. Twenty-one years of drug addiction, chronic homelessness, in and out of jail, untreated mental health struggles, unemployed and unemployable, eating out of trashcans, and sleeping in homeless shelters—that was me.
Fast forward to today, I no longer have to sleep under bridges, abandoned houses, or on park benches. I no longer have to stay in jail, clog up emergency rooms, or stay away from family and friends. I vote, I pay state and federal taxes, I own a vehicle, I’m buying my own home, I buy groceries and gas, and I try to be productive in the local community every day. I am a happily married man, a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle, and a friend to many.
I could have been thrown away by society, but Camino recycled me. I can’t erase or change anything from my past, but as the scripture states, I can be forgiven. Camino has not only forgiven me, but they also support me and see my value. Based on my past experiences, I can help others overcome their own struggles in life. All of my titles mentioned earlier in this blog, all of the people I have been able to help throughout my life, none of that would have been possible if I had not been forgiven.
Camino placed me back on the pottery wheel to reshape and recycle me so I could come out on the other side as a new person. The people who have made mistakes in the past, the people who are often judged and cast out because of those mistakes—they can be forgiven and add value to the lives of others going through similar situations. So, don’t be so quick to throw people away. Think about the good that can come from recycling them.