Holistic Hardware: Building an Inspirational Lifestyle in 30 Days
I first learned about Holistic Hardware the hard way, trying to help a Harlem homeless man named Henry. I met him in the summer of 1985 on Lenox Avenue during a Christian outreach meeting. I offered him the food, clothing, and message of hope that the members of Harlem’s Ark of Freedom (aka Hark), the non-profit I founded, brought on our weekly forays. Henry responded well the first time, the next time, every time. But after several months it struck me that we really weren’t helping him, and that we might even be hindering his progress. He was coming for the food and clothing, but he was not changing, his circumstances were not changing, he was just the same—homeless, hungry, hurting—week after week, month after month.
One day I asked Henry some probing questions. He had been homeless for almost a year. The son of a southern minister, he had lost his way when he moved
to New York City, fell in with the wrong crowd, and ended up addicted to crack. He told me that he was staying in the city armory shelter on West 142nd Street, just a few blocks from where we were talking. I invited him to come to weekly fellowship meetings held in my apartment and directed him to drug counseling sessions at the Beth-Hark Crisis Center, a ministry that I had recently co-founded with my home church, Bethel Gospel Assembly.
But after a few weeks Henry stopped coming to both fellowship and counseling. Early one morning I went to the Harlem armory shelter, resolved to find him there. What I saw there devastated me. Five hundred men sleeping in cots crowded the drill hall floor. I looked for Henry amidst the stench and gloom: row after row of desolation, face after face of despair. The staff had to literally drag men out of bed to get them up. A fight broke out over a broken crack pipe stem. When someone pulled a gun, I gave up on trying to find Henry and fled for my own safety. I never saw Henry again.
In my distress over losing Henry, I decided that there had to be a better way. The men at the armory shelter had been given a collective roof over their heads and other material sustenance, but little else. No one, it seemed, was acknowledging their humanity. No one was dealing with their uniqueness as individuals. No
one was even trying to dig beneath their homelessness, which was really a symptom of a greater disorder. There was no inspiration. As far as I was concerned, the approach whereby the government was a direct provider of social services had failed Henry. He had “three hots and a cot” but nothing more.
But I, too, had been failing the Henrys of Harlem. They came to our outreaches and gladly received our handouts but these material provisions weren’t enough to turn them away from chronic crisis to permanent progress. To really make a difference, the intervention had to be holistic, going deeper than the needs of the
body to lift the soul and the spirit. The Henrys of Harlem taught me a metaphorical lesson: a person buffeted by the storms of life can end up like a fallen house. The image was telling—Henry as a house in disrepair needed more than a minor repair here and a tinkering there; up to this point I had barely scratched the surface of his troubles. I began to see that what was required was nothing less than a total renovation, tearing down the worn-out value system that was keeping him down, and constructing a new one—an inspirational one—in its place.
I also learned that Henry himself had to take responsibility for building his own house of progress. My responsibility was not to do it for him but to make sure that he possessed all the proper tools and knew how to use them. And as long as the Henrys remained in the transitory, precarious, hit-or-miss world of the Harlem streets and shelters, there was no overcoming; only survival.
So Harkhomes (the place), and Holistic Hardware (the program) germinated from the same spiritual place. Conceived as housing not as an end in itself but as a means to restore the whole person, Harkhomes provided shelter and food for fifteen homeless men in a church basement on one of the worst blocks in Harlem. It also offered the life skills and support to pave the way for our residents to achieve productivity, independence and self-sufficiency. A waiting list developed within a few days of opening. The immediate demand stemmed from our values-driven, family-style, role model-steeped environment, which compared favorably with large public shelters such as the city armory, where I’d last seen Henry.
Harkhomes became the social “laboratory” in which Holistic Hardware was “invented.” The holistic tools are principle-centered life skills that have proven effective in uplifting individual lives. Working with the residents and others who came for help, I learned by trial-and-error that a daily diet of values, principles, and disciplines fostered moral strength in the same way that “three hots and a cot” sustained physical strength.
So I developed a regimen of spiritual values, practical strategies, high standards and expectations, and an ethic of personal responsibility even as I was addressing physical needs. More than a thousand men were housed at Harkhomes during its twelve years of operation.
Over the years I observed again and again that the presence or absence of holistic tools in an individual’s life proved to be the critical factor to why some made
it and others did not. Jesus’ parable of the two houses highlights the theme of Holistic Hardware. Jesus describes stormy conditions: wind, rain, floods, beating against two houses; one house collapses, the other house remains standing. The storms represent the troubles of the individual life; the houses represent individuals in the midst of these trials. The point of the parable is that the houses stand or fall based on their foundation. Individuals stand or fall based on their foundational principles. The houses built on sand fell; they are like individuals trying to live life without values and principles. Such people collapse under the pressures of crisis, opposition, and adversity. The houses built on rock withstood the storm; they are like people who live life according to principles and values and standards. Such folks possess a moral core, a spiritual fiber, an inner strength that buttresses them through the ups-and-downs of life. One’s ability to make it through stormy times depends on the principles you possess on the inside, not what forces are raging on the outside.
Holistic Hardware lived beyond Harkhomes in the form of a curriculum-based video series, workshops and a special imprint Bible. Over the years I’ve discovered that the holistic tools are both remedial and preventative. The ten Tools—Vision, Responsibility, Self-Esteem, Faith, Discipline, Association, Planning, Work, Wealth, and Love—worked not only for individuals whose lives have fallen apart but also for anyone looking to keep life from falling apart. They are words to uplift the downtrodden but also to sustain those weary from everyday trials.
Holistic Hardware was originally designed for the homeless: to help them address the personal crises—unemployment, substance abuse, domestic strife, despair and other pathologies underlying their circumstance. The holistic tools have evolved, not only a resource for those in dire straits but also useful to those who are simply living beneath their God-given potential and seeking more victory out of life. Tools that work on broken-down vehicles work just as well
on cars that only need a tune-up.
The book has been given a 30-day framework because the tools are best understood and implemented as a daily regimen. They are ideally utilized with a dayby-
day focus: one principle is to be learned by rote and practiced every day over thirty days. The key is to lay a cornerstone of principle-centered living daily over the first month. Once this foundation has been laid, the cycle is repeated until the principles become second nature. Though the timeframe of the title implies attainment in thirty days, this span is intended for the earnest builder to lay a sure foundation. Ongoing use of the holistic tools is the goal.
Committing the tools to memory is the key. It is not enough simply to read the content of a particular day’s chapter. The real value comes with memorizing
the material and incorporating it into your daily experience. Embrace the daily affirmation at the end of each chapter. Rehearse it early and often creatively applying it as suitable opportunities present themselves. Holistic Hardware is not quick-fix; the tools do not guarantee perfect solutions or speedy results. It is all about a paradigm shift from your old way of thinking to the holistic approach—a spirit-soul-body perspective. If you believe differently about your situation (spirit as renewed faith), you will think differently about it (soul as renewed attitude), then you will act differently— with inspiration! (body as renewed lifestyle). The inspirational lifestyle happens when the principles that you instill in your spirit rise through your mind and emotions to motivate your actions.
Finally, it should be noted that the holistic tools are practical in effect but spiritual in nature. Because they are Biblical in their genesis, the principles are providential: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So the practitioner of Holistic Hardware must expect the unexpected, the unpredictable, the mysterious, the serendipitous. The solution that unfolds may not be the one that you had in mind, but a new insight leading to a fresh process transpiring a totally unanticipated result, far different from and far better than anything you could have or would have imagined. It is important to do your holistic journeying prepared for the rocky and winding road that lies ahead; courageous enough to be David against your Goliaths; humble enough to leave room for human nature, unknown fellow travelers and supernatural intervention to do their splendid work; and faithful enough to let the divine outcomes unfold.
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