Life Can Be Real and Raw

A Conversation with Bill Such at the Jesus Center

With Rahasya & Dhara from Lotus Guide


We asked Bill Such, the executive director of the Jesus Center, “What is the reality he sees when helping those who come to the center in need?” He said, “Life is real and it is raw.” I know from personal experience of being a drug and alcohol counselor how reality can seem unbearable at times. Some reach this point by choice but most find themselves needing help through a series of circumstances often beyond their control. As we find ourselves in the midst of a broken government on the federal and state levels we will need to find more support on local community levels. This is where organizations such as the Jesus Center and many other religious and secular organizations can be of true service, but they also need our help.


Many find themselves in a position in which they no longer trust government organizations for one reason or another and so are drawn to community centers and shelters for help. Others simply run out of SSI toward the end of the month. I often wonder how many people realize that they are two or three paychecks away from being homeless themselves. Bill told us that there has been a rise in families coming in during the last 12 months. At this point, almost every major city has what have become known as “tent cities” on the edge of town. In our small rural Northern California towns we are fortunate to have enough resources to keep many off the streets. Shelters such as the Torres Shelter in Chico and Hospitality House in Grass Valley regularly give temporary shelter and are supported through the generosity of individuals and religious organizations throughout the area.


As we toured the Jesus Center’s kitchen and food supply rooms, I was reminded of something Gandhi said: “To a starving person a piece of bread is God.” The Jesus Center serves from 140 to 200 meals twice a day, which not only sustains the bodies but also the souls of many people in the Chico area. The bottom line is that if you are in Chico and need to eat, there is a place to go, and if you are in Chico and want to give back or volunteer, there is a place to go.


The Jesus Center has a women and children’s shelter, a clothing store, and a resource center with free telephone and computer access, all of which are meant to help people to be self-supportive again. As we walked through the center, with Bill looking into the many faces passing us by, I couldn’t help but think that this is a true testament to the community we live in because we are all in this together and we all need help from time to time. Bill told us that most of the people working there were not what society would call professionals but I thought that they were all “professional human beings,” doing what a lot of “professionals” can’t or refuse to do. This idea also reflects Bill’s words when he said that what he looks for in a person who wants to work or volunteer there was compassion. An interesting footnote is that some of the latest research at HeartMath points clearly to the fact that having a compassionate heart is a key factor in the ability to be empathetic with another person, which is a primary ingredient for meaningful communication.

Maybe it was because we were at the Jesus Center but I couldn’t help but remember the words, “Truly I say to you, inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.” This really should ring true for all of us, no matter what you believe or don’t believe, because we all are truly one in this amazing mystery called life.


You can contact the Jesus Center (1297 Park Ave. at 13th Street, Chico, 530-345-2640, to volunteer or donate or perhaps have your church or organization do a “can drive.”