By Carrie Stokes
In its simplest translation, Wake Forest University’s motto “Pro Humanitate” means “For Humanity.” I’d always understood the motto as a call to service for the people of the world until a speech by Associate Professor of Classical Languages James Powell shifted my perception. Powell comments that beyond the call to work for the betterment of others, “Pro Humanitate” calls us to consider what we are as human beings and what constitutes genuine human flourishing.”
What does it mean to feel human? And how can you feel human if you’ve fallen through the cracks? That is where the transformational healing work of Recovery Café begins. Everyone who walks through the door is authentically welcomed with warmth and compassion – human to human. This embodiment of radical hospitality reminds us that in order to feel human, we must be intentionally acknowledged as such, because sometimes it seems as though we’ve fallen too far in the cracks to still believe it ourselves.
Although touched by Powell’s speech in 2011, I never truly understood the complex meaning of the motto until stepping foot in Recovery Café – 3,000 miles away from home.
Over the last several months, I’ve interned at Recovery Café with fellow alumna Killian Noe. The relevance of the school’s motto, Pro Humanitate, became fully present in my mind at Recovery Café. Here, I discovered genuine human flourishing from members of society I least expected: those traumatized by homelessness, addiction and other mental health challenges. As it turns out, cultivating humanity through radical hospitality and facilitating meaningful connection between people reminds us that we deserve love and prompts us to share that love and compassion with others, serving humanity.
For me, I directly experienced this in the common area, around one of the Recovery Café’s tables. I smiled when I would see the dominoes “grandmasters” setting up their board after lunch. Though simply scorekeeping their games requires great talent, I’m welcomed to watch in awe at their skill and giggle at the assorted competitive wisecracks. In this one moment sitting around the table, the various challenges that brought us through the doors of the Café are no longer barriers that divide us, and I see the complexity and humanness underlying the face of addiction and other mental health challenges.
Thank you Killian for embedding the spirit of Pro Humanitate at Recovery Café, a place where all are welcome to sit around the “grandmasters” table on Thursday afternoons.