The OCP Blog
“True kindness, compassion, and patience do not come from just thinking how it might feel to be hurt. Those who are truly kind are so not because of theory or ethics, but because they feel the suffering of others.” Paraphrase of Thich Nhat Hanh
Dave Syfor, our featured volunteer of the month, was born and spent his childhood (until age 18) in New Jersey. Shortly after his 13th birthday, Mr. Syfor went through an experience that caused him severe mental distress. He felt abandoned, unacknowledged, misunderstood, and deeply hurt. “My mother leaving us just changed everything,” Mr. Syfor stated. “My father started drinking heavily to cope with the new reality that he was left with four kids to raise on his own.”
As the second of the four children, our featured volunteer of the month grew up without experiencing the feeling of truly being part of a family. Mr. Syfor counted the days to his 18th birthday, when he would be able to leave his family home. “My brothers never made me feel accepted or understood due to the depression and mood swings that came to surface after our mother left us,” he lamented. After graduating from high school, Mr. Syfor left his home and joined the carnival, with the goal of creating a home of his own with like-minded people. After a year traveling with this line of work, our featured volunteer decided to move to Fredericksburg, VA, in 2000. He got a job as a cook at the Waffle House. Mr. Syfor stayed there for five years. “I can’t believe that is the only job I have held for more than eight months,” he mentioned. His quest for a family setting where he could express himself and where people understood the effects of his traumatic experience, such as his depression, has guided his decisions and movements.
In 2007, after our featured volunteer of the month had been working at the Waffle House for about five years, depression started him on a downward spiral. “It hit me pretty hard. I started relying on alcohol and drugs to make it go away,” he mentioned. After losing his job and the family that he felt safe in, his relationships started deteriorating. He moved to Harrisonburg a year later, homeless and seeking somewhere he could call home. That’s when a friend told him about Our Community Place.
The first time he walked into the building, Ron Copeland welcomed him. “He talked to me for a while without even knowing me,” Mr. Syfor stated. Our featured volunteer of the month is one of the few who helped build the OCP porch. He is among the few who recall the grand opening of the community center. After a year of embracing the OCP culture, he started going to Early Church. In 2009 he participated in the First Baptism class. Along with two other volunteers, Mr. Syfor became one of the first three people to be baptized by the Early Church.
Featured volunteer of the month Mr. Syfor continues to suffer from depression, but his love of serving marginalized people who are going through tough times continues to give him a reason to wake up every day. He can feel their suffering. His patience, compassion, and willingness to see the pain in people and meet them with comfort and kindness inspire us to acknowledge his presence and the work that he has done and continues to do for himself and our community.