From the Desk of John Van Cleef, CEO | March 2021
My Real, Inmost Story
“If we wish to know about a man, we ask ‘what is his story – his real, inmost story?’ – for each of us is a biography, a story… (and) we are each of us unique.” – Oliver Sacks
It’s an inevitable question, “Why do you do what you do?” My answer is a true story of personal and professional passion that’s rooted in a legacy of service. But as we continue to engage with each other, I realize the need to share my real, inmost story.
My passion for serving others also comes from two defining experiences I don’t speak of often or publicly. First, as a child and adult I moved up and down the west coast every two or three years, and in moving I was always the new guy, and in being the new guy I often felt invisible – outside the enigmatic “in” group. Feeling invisible extends beyond the boundaries of lonely because it doesn’t even feel visible enough to be seen.
More than one person who has been hungry, more than one person who has been homeless, more than one person who has been hurt has said, “I felt invisible, so I became like I was invisible.” I have passion for what we do because I believe that no person should be so bereft of community and connection that they feel invisible.
Second, my divorce was a traumatic experience – and in the course of going through that loss I had to rely on my community of family and friends for a place to stay while everything stabilized. While I didn’t have to endure the harsh realities of wondering where my next meal would come from, where I’d sleep that night or what I’d do for work the next day, I felt ashamed and dealt with clinical depression.
More than one person who has been hungry, more than one person who has been homeless, more than one person who has been hurt has said, “I felt ashamed. I was depressed.” I have passion for what we do because CRC is community for people who need support through traumatic times.
I often describe my relationship with CRC as an existential fit, immediately followed by the declaration that I’m not going anywhere. Both are true because my real, inmost story – my passion – has found its home and voice with CRC.