Reconnecting With Myself

Good Afternoon Everyone and Welcome to the Cesar Chavez Day of service here at the Homeless Garden Projects Farm.

So how was lunch? Let’s thank 1440 for providing us with such an outstanding & nourishing lunch!

First-off I would like to thank each and everyone of you for not only taking the time to show up… but putting in the pain and effort into helping us accomplish some of those spring time tasks – that get the farm closer to production.

You know what they say, many hands make light work! Again thank you for your hard work and dedication… it makes a significant difference! I feel incredibly honored to not only be asked… but to be able to speak to you this afternoon.

As introduced, my name is Chuck Hornbeck and I am one of the trainees here at the farm. Originally I hail from a small town near Pittsburgh, PA. My parents uprooted us from eastern smallville to another pint-sized Bay Area town mainly because it didn’t snow! And when I say ‘us’, I’m referring to my older sister, younger brother, 3 dogs, 2 cats, and a hamster that got loose somewhere along the trip.

I grew-up in a normal sort-of childhood… whatever that means? And found myself gravitating towards a walk of life that was community and service oriented. My faith also played an essential part of my development. I was using a significant amount of my free time helping others.

For my first real job I became a lifeguard. That job parlayed into a career that continued to see me help others. Next as a first responder for a Westbay fire district and then Emergency Management for a large university. I also put my love for helping people into the hours I volunteered… mainly with the Red Cross, Guide Dogs For the Blind, and our churches 3rd World Medical Missions Team.

And over the last few years… prior to COVID… I opened up a company that consulted for sports related safety issues. I did say – just prior to COVID – then COVID hit and not only did everything close but the business took a backslide like many others. As COVID progressed, my life and livelihood regressed. I survived for a while.

There are times when I look back over the last couple of years and I see nothing but failures. It seems the story continued to snowball until I was completely overwhelmed. I had the feeling it was impossible to step forward, to simply start and begin again. To find that discipline to do what’s right for both me and others. I had come to let circumstances begin to control what I was thinking and feeling.

I felt like I was giving away all my energy and power to an uncontrollable situation. I was losing control! But there came a point when I finally got tired of feeling sick and tired. When I finally felt enough was enough. Somehow, I realized I needed to stop holding on to those beliefs that needed to be let go of. The idea that life needed to be this perfect ball of wax.

You know I have noticed that life is a series of cycles and challenges. That whatever we are experiencing is not permanent. 

I need to remember that this too shall pass. My biggest challenge is knowing this is only temporary. One season of life. Something you just have to get through. I truly believe if you are chasing a challenge, stay engaged, don’t stop doing, stay busy, work on a plan, continue doing the things that have worked for you. At the same time keep an open mind and listen to that inner voice. But, continue to move and stay busy.

Remember to keep life in perspective. Because whatever experience that is happening now, won’t be here to stay. This moment can be a significant junction. A point or occasion to reaffirm our values and to see it as one of life’s teaching moments. A chance we can seize on and in my case, the opportunity here at the garden, this opportunity encouraged me to re-open a door. A door I could choose to walk through. Rather than listening to that stale tape running through my mind of “I just don’t know if I’m worth it” or “is it the right time to do this?” or “maybe I’m just not skilled enough.” It’s that tape that says I’ve failed recently so often I’ve lost count. It’s the tape that might beat me out of a fantastic opportunity.

So I took a chance and while here at the farm I began to regain my self respect. To be responsible on a level that I was accustomed to. When we stand up to adversity when we’ve gone through that, we come out the other side with more resiliency. We come out more resourceful. We come out with more than others, who have yet to experience adversity, trauma, and agony. That’s a reality we can choose.

As I worked, I developed that kindred stewardship with the land and program. I found I could release that crippling fear from inside. That victim mindset. The excuses that were holding me back. The project and its path became more than a destination or goal. It became about the relationships and skills I redeveloped. The character I rebuilt and the faith I started to rebelieve in. Now I get up in the morning, look in the mirror and reconnect with the person I’m seeing. 

Is it hard work? Of course it is!!!! The minutes, the hours, the weeks, have put me in a vastly better place. I have nothing but admiration for those that have finished before me and those who will graduate after me fighting the temptation to give up. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s worth it!!! To embrace the process, to achieve the ability to heal and grow. To maintain discipline. To look over the fields as they grow and become fruitful, becoming something bigger than yourself… to be able to say a job well done!!!!

—Chuck Hornbeck, HGP Trainee, shared this talk at HGP’s Cesar Chavez Day 2023 at the farm.