Category Archives: Homelessness

How I Feel Right Now (Stream of Consciousness-ish)

I am sitting in my classroom with my best class. They are working on their student led discussions or on reading the texts for the next week. They are taking advantage of their work day in a way my other classes don’t. They are actually working. Two of my girls actually got really excited about how their SLD is going to go tomorrow; they are planning to play a card game called Mafia, but they’re basing it on Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience somehow. I won’t pretend to understand what they were talking about, but they are smart women. I am sure it will be fine and meaningful. These students are so not who I was when I was in high school. I don’t wish I could go back. I would never wish that on anyone. I do wish I would have made some different choices. But don’t we all.

I feel like a failure. I failed my Whole 30. Again. I failed my run streak. Again. I had a bad attitude yesterday. Again. I need to remind myself that “when my chin is on the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again.” Again. I need to remember that I am human, though I fancy myself to be Wonder Woman. I am not.

I just ordered Red Letter Revolution by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo. I want it to revolutionize my faith, but I think it probably won’t. I’m willing to try, though. I want it to. I want a revolution. I want change. I want communism to come to us. I want consumerism (ha, funny since I just ordered a book) to end. I want for Americans to be satisfied with themselves, instead of with the belongings. I want a backpack filled with joy to live from. I want to get rid of all my possessions. I want to make art. Or write. Or play with children with jump ropes and sidewalk chalk. I want to walk. To the ends of the earth and then dive into the ocean.

I just signed up for the Red Gold Run to Crush Hunger. I don’t really like 5Ks, but this one benefits my brother’s school somehow, so we’re doing it. It takes the whole first mile for me to warm up, and then I’m hit or miss for the next two. I like longer runs because my breathing smoothes out and my legs get used to what I am asking them to do. I prefer a 10K or a 15K to anything else. I haven’t run one of those for almost a year. When I didn’t finish the marathon, my little sails, my meager hopes and dreams, were a bit deflated. No matter. In December, my friend Emily and I are going to run the Santa Hustle Half Marathon. Which I may have already said here, but I’m just talking off the top of my head. In case you could’t tell that by the scattered nature of my thoughts. I’m enjoying my new Altras now that I have run a few more miles in them. It was nice to have a bit more cushion for my 4.1 miles on Saturday (or was it Sunday?). My legs didn’t hurt at all the next day.

Here is a little ditty by the Violent Femmes. There thoughts are my thoughts about media, but I don’t hate the President. I actually love him. I have nothing else to say. I’ve rambled on long enough.

Too Many Days of Lent: I’ve Been Revelling in the Weather

How much of a blessing has this weather been?! The trees are bloomed out with leaves and assorted flowers, the wild flowers are brightly colored and diverse, the grass is growing and growing and growing, and the birds wake me up every morning with their anger or sexual desire, whichever is worse I am unsure. They scream and chatter and occasionally whistle and chirp outside our bedroom window at the bird feeders. They are my natural alarm clock, beautiful and harsh.

Every time I look out the window at the beauty of the day, I want school to be over so I can play outside. I want to go swimming, biking, running, disc golfing, kayaking, and I want to do every other activity that someone can do outside! I want to roll down a hill and make myself sick. I want to be free. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here: God wants us to play. There is a whole theology of play that helps us to better relate to the divine through spontaneous acts of creative play.

Part of play for me is recognizing who I am in Christ and being free from societal constraints. In other words, I feel free to play when I realize that my identity lies in Christ and not in what other people think of me. And, I play with reckless abandon, which means I have a few people in my life that don’t quite understand me. My greatest desire is to be unencumbered by those things that other people see as necessary. My mom always says to other people, “I think she just wants to be poor.” Yeah, I do. I don’t want to be tied down by earthly possessions or monetary things. I never intended to buy a house. I would love to get rid of all my stuff until everything I own or everything I need could fit in my camping backpack. I’m pretty sure that would make me perfect for monastic life, which is still a kind of dream of mine. I’m not sure I want to be monastic in the “I’m celibate and live in a cold cell with a hair shirt” kind of monastic, but more in the new monastic, communal living sort of way where I share things with my community members.

When I am having these thoughts, my morning prayers typically confirm my thoughts or dissuade me from them. Today they confirm with this quote from Peter Maruin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement: “The world would be better off if -people tried to become better. And -people would become better if they stopped trying to become better off.” I think living in a self-sustaining community and trying to be better and more compassionate is definitely a way for me to be better off. I think of communities like Simple Way and the way they intertwine work and play in all aspects of their lives.

I would be able to work hard and play hard without trying to conform to some arbitrary economic constraints.

I would only have to please God and provide for my “family.”

I would have plenty of time to revel in the beauty of God’s world and word.

I could play.

Peace.

Lent Day 16: Do the Best You Can Where You Are

We are all complicit in the world in which we live. Unless we live completely off the grid, self-sustaining, and 100% independent of anyone else, we are complicit in what US culture (or global culture for that matter) has become. Wealth is made on the backs of the poorest and neediest. We criticize even those who try to make a difference. Perhaps because they aren’t making a big enough difference in our opinions. Or maybe they aren’t making the right difference in the right way.

What I learned in a succession of strange and serendipitous interactions today is that we each have to do the best we can to live our lives in a way that we can live with the choices we make, in a way that we can live with ourselves, in a way that we can look at ourselves in the mirror and not feel ashamed.

For some people, that way of living may be completely and totally morally reprehensible to someone else. For example, my Starbucks habit may make Fair Trade only coffee drinkers cringe. Someone else’s insistence on wearing Nike (or insert other brand) tennis shoes may perk up my sensors for labor abuse. People may look at my Mac and curse my choices, and I may see their copy of The Purpose Driven Life and question were those profits are going. Each of us has a commodity-related Achilles heel. Each of us has a love (or necessity) that is bound up in immoral and unethical practices.

But, if each us will do his or her little part to make the world a more ethical place, instead of continually judging each other for what we’re not doing, then we will see much ethical and moral growth. With each person making small strides, together we’re making great strides, right? I realize this is a little more pie-in-the-sky hopeful and optimistic—and even quite a bit cheesier, possibly a bit preachier—than my usual posts, but we have to start somewhere. If we start somewhere, it’s better than simply sitting around finger pointing, right? Right?

Now I’m respectfully stepping off the soap box.

*

A good portion of the beauty of today (and every day) was in simplicity.

A Twin-Yolked Egg and Yummy Bacon

Little Purple Spring Flowers Growing Up Among the Brown Leaves

A Bridge I Walk Past Every Day, But It Looked Especially Artistic Today

Cod Fish Stir Fry

A Man Fishing, But I Am Not Sure He Caught Anything

Kayaking the White River: Looking at the Ball Mansions

“All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”—Toni Morrison in Rita Dove’s Grace Notes

I, too, always feel as if I am trying to get back to where I was. In a way, we are all trying to get back to where we were.

Humbling Experiences All Around

Have you ever simply looked around and realized that when you open up and let God have [Their] way with you, you see humbling experiences all around?

That experience could be a friend who loses a child, a students’ mother who has cancer, a friend who is honest about her theological struggles, or a significant other who works hard even in the face of adversity. And somehow, they all seem to handle it with so much more grace than you think you ever could. They seem to dance and swirl in and around these adversities while you plod and thud and generally make a mess of navigating the obstacle course. You trip; they glide. And that’s just how it is. But you recognize it and are humbled by the grace of it all.

Maybe the experience comes in the quirky voice of a young pastor who encourages you to figure out who you really are, and who equates the story of our lives to writing, reminding us that it’s character that drives the story. “Plot grows out of character,” says Anne Lamott. If you have no character, you have a bad plot. What is your character? How is it shaping your plot? Our plot?

Maybe the experience comes in a class in which you feel you don’t belong, but the professor reminds you that you, too, are a teller of truth. You still feel desperately inadequate, and you hope, beyond hope, that you might actually write something that makes you feel less so.

Maybe the experience comes when you learn that people don’t perceive your actions the way you intend for them to perceive them, that they don’t get who you are and what you are about. They don’t understand that more than anything else you respect all of humanity, trying each day to see Jesus inside each body, each heart, each mind.

Maybe that experience comes when you have such an intense respect for others you have a physiological response to homelessness that isn’t pity, but something deeper that you can’t name. Your heart doesn’t break, but you wish that instead of learning from them, you could find something inside yourself to teach.

Maybe these experiences happen all around you, all the time, but you just can’t see them unfolding. Maybe you are so caught up in making your story work that you can’t see the things God is trying to make work for you. That is who I am most of the time, but I am trying to see God’s hand in it, and I am working to let God write my story, and I am seeking to be the character I think I am meant to be. And it’s humbling.

This isn’t the most exciting video, but I think the words go well with how I am feeling right now.

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I am thankful for finishing another draft.

Food: banana, juice, oatmeal, chocolate milk, cookies, rice noodle soup, granola bar, diet 7-Up, rice crackers, two pieces of pizza and bread sticks, Taddy Porter

Exercise: walked the dogs, walked home from church, ran 3 miles, rode bike from RB to church

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Seeing the crowd, Jesus went up on the mountain and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for their is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for the they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you.

I Know Why.

I know why homeless people stay homeless. As I was riding my bike in the rain to the mission this morning, I thought to myself, ‘This is why some homeless people get stuck in poverty. If I didn’t have a job or a home, how could I get one?’ I thought about this because it was raining pretty hard and my tires on my bicycle were spitting water all over my pants. By the time I got to the mission, I was drenched, cold, and out of breath. If I had been a person who was unemployed and on my way to a job interview, there would have been absolutely nothing I could have done about my appearance. My pants were literally soaked through. My underwear are still a little soggy and it is exactly twelve hours later. How many people do you think would hire a person who can’t even show up for her interview looking halfway presentable? Is there anywhere that will let you work the first couple of weeks until you can afford to buy a uniform? What if you still can’t afford a uniform after the first two weeks? What if you can’t afford to pay your water bill and don’t have perfectly clean clothes each day? I think about this frequently because I wonder how people are supposed to get a leg up when we place such high expectations on people in the work force. Surely there is somewhere that helps people help themselves, but I don’t hold my breath.

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Today was writing club: Write On! Huh? One of the students led the group today. He brought a prompt, which was a list of fifty words. We picked numbers between one and fifty, then used the words that corresponded with the numbers in a story of 300-500 words. The words were pretty lame, according to the student, but I made my first (lame) foray into writing fiction using these words:  plastic grocery bag, candles, large drink cup, mustache, and poster.

It Seemed Like Child’s Play

I stopped in front of the wanted poster hanging outside the candy store next to the grocery store on our town square. “Small Town USA,” our town motto rang in my ears. I moved here when I had a child, so she would be safe. I thought there was too much crime in the big city to raise children there.

Usually they wear leisure suits with wide lapels in these posters. Apparently, the perpetrator’s wardrobe updates end in the late seventies. This man was no exception. Movie villains are always well-dressed and looking for a good time. Slick mustache and hair combed straight back: every movie villain has the same style. Sometimes the hair covers a bald spot. Sometimes the bald spot shows through. But this wasn’t a movie villain. This was a man who had been spotted in our town.  This was simply a pervert looking for a good time.

I stood there looking at the poster, thinking about how it resembled a B-movie poster when the wind picked up, cold and fast, bringing with it a large drink cup wrapped in a plastic grocery bag. The whirlwind circled around me as if it was trying to tell me something, like Lassie explaining that Timmy fell into the well. I ignored the icy gust, and kept staring into the eyes of this man in front of me, shuddering and thinking about my beautiful daughter and how this man was loose in our neighborhood. All I could think of was his sleezy mustache and greasy comb over. They consumed me. They haunted me. They made my skin prick with cold.

The wind howled around the building, the plastic grocery bag crinkled and scraped its way across the parking lot, taking with it the cup, which must have been empty. The pair blowing across the pavement made me wonder about their former contents. Someone’s lunch. An after work snack. Halloween candy collected by a small child. I put my collar up to shield my neck from the sudden cold, and thought about the mustache and the hair. This man with his piercing stare could be anywhere, lurking, waiting for a small child to pass his way.

I began to question. Was the grocery bag clutched by small hands, greedily collecting falling leaves? Those could have been my daughter’s hands wrapped tightly around the plastic handles, waiting for a piece of penny candy. They could have been the hands of the boy next door, holding the bag for his father on the way home from the store. Had the pervert’s dry, cracked hands, having been run across his greasy hair, having caressed the ends of his mustache, gripped that large Styrofoam cup? Had his lips pulled the soda through straw to quench his thirst?

Now the drink was gone, the contents of the bag were gone, and the child was gone. I thought about how scared my mother had been that I would be kidnapped as a child, and now I had my own worries. But my morose imagination had run away with me. When the wind whipped past my collar and began to sting my eyes, I remembered I needed to pick up candles for my daughter’s birthday cake.

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Exercise: biked to the mission then to Burris

Food: banana, milk, two Bliss chocolates, Clif bar, tea, apple, almonds, pumpkin spice steamer, sun chips, pasta with stir fry, M&Ms