Sunday, December 12, 2010

I ran into a man outside Primavera last night. He was not expecting me, I was not expecting him.
He had several bags with him and I told him he could stay. But he wouldn't respond to anything I said, and just walked away quickly, even leaving a bag behind. I wrote this this morning while at work. (Pardon my lack of poetry skills, but it's the best expression of my experience I think). There are just so many that fall between the cracks.

You once had a name.
And someone who loved,
brought you into this earth.
When did they decide you had no worth?

When did you decide not to respond?
To stay alone
On the stoop,
In the corners.

In the corners of our buildings
In the corners of our eyes.
Never in our eyes,
Our pupils,
our minds.

So then we can tell you,
Out the corners of our eyes,
That you have no name,
There’s no need to respond.

So you can remain
There in a corner.
On the stoop
You can stay

 Peace my friends.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Just a thought...

"Advent should admonish us to discover in each brother or sister that we greet, in each friend whose hand we shake, in each beggar who asks for bread, in each worker who wants to use the right to join a union, in each peasant who looks for work in the coffee groves, the face of Christ. Then it would not be possible to rob them, to cheat them, to deny them their rights. They are Christ, and whatever is done to them Christ will take as done to himself. This is what Advent is:
Christ living among us." - Oscar Romero

December 3, 1978

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Running through my Brain in the Park

The Park- there is a park at the end of our street that I usually start my run on. There are people there I see almost every time I run. I want to open with some thoughts that began to run through my head….as I ran through the park.
Red-jacket-ed man and blue hat-ed woman. These 2 are always sitting at the same picnic table. …
Lap 1… What do they need? It’s cold- blankets. Homeless people are always hungry- food. It’s Thanksgiving soon- maybe I should bring them to our feast. Yes, or maybe I should just bring them some food after we eat. Clothes?  Lap 2… Wow, they have a lot of stuff. Shopping carts full of stuff. And, a hot pot? With hot water? Jackets, blankets? But still, there’s got to be something that they need that I can provide…. Lap 3… I wave. Red-jacketed man looks fairly confused, and perhaps not too thrilled by my gesture. Maybe they don’t want my help? But no, I know. They must need something. …
And I keep going, around the track in circles. Trying to figure out a word to say, a thing to give.
But, how to I know what they need?
My supervisor, another Primavera intern, and I are currently reading A Careless Society, a book made up of several articles by John McKnight.  He writes a lot about how our society/economy has become almost entirely service-based. We, the service providers, actually search for needs in communities and people, so that we can create more jobs for ourselves. These needs are seen as deficiencies in people.  Only the service-provider can define the problem at hand, the steps needed to fix it, and whether or not they have succeeded. …  (Now, that’s my extreme summarization of only a few chapters that we’ve read. But still, it got me thinking).
Just as I don’t know these people in the park, I don’t know many of the people that I work with. I case-manage at the men’s shelter two nights a week. While I try my best to listen to each guy I meet with, I still am in control of the meeting. I make a list of their goals and then talk with them about how to accomplish them. Yet, when they come into that room, I’ve already got an agenda. Because they are homeless. Therefore, they are at the shelter because they need a place to stay. They must want to find work. If they have had problems with drugs or alcohol, AA meetings are the way to fix that. They obviously don’t want to be in the situation they’re in, and my job is to tell them how to fix it. YUCK! YUCK! YUCK! There must be another way.
But, I go to work. And I run in the park. And I continue to go in circles, passing by, wishing I knew what to do. Or, if I should do anything at all. And perhaps, the fact that I have to keep going, is enough right now.
I am committing to these people- whether I sit in an office at a desk with them, or I pass them by in the park. God help me.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Assured Uncertainty

‘I don’t know--’ the phrase that continues to appear throughout my journal. I may ask a question prior to this response, or simply insert it into the middle of a run-on sentence. Upon looking through the past month’s entries, I first began to wonder ‘do I really know anything?’… And then it occurred to me that what may have seemed like sheer ignorance, could be better described as assured uncertainty. Quite an oxymoron, I know.
There are homeless individuals who have been coming to some of our emergency relief programs for over twenty years. These programs are supposed to help people move up a rung on the ladder. But are we doing something wrong, or is this a lifestyle they desire to continue?  I don’t know.
A man came the main office’s front door after-hours the other day and said, “Hey, I have a question. The sign says HIP- Homeless Intervention and Prevention. What exactly are you preventing?” I don’t know.
Jan Brewer is probably going to remain governor of Arizona. Why? I don’t know.
Histories of divisions, disagreements, and disputes seem to make up denominational make-ups. How does that become part of our kingdom-building pursuit? I don’t know.
And yet, I have come to learn, that it is when we are certain of one thing or another, unwilling to budge, that we are also unwilling to love. I have come to learn that it is because I don’t understand, that I have any reason at all to trust. So, I ask myself, am I certain of anything?
                For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the LOVE of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I am uncertain of how I best should love, but I am assured that it is what we have been called to do.
Ps- I had my first bike crash. And survived to write this blog. J

Sunday, September 19, 2010

On Friday, I read an article in the Arizona Daily Star headlined “Arizona is now no. 2 in poverty.” One in five Arizonans are living below the poverty line. And I’m fairly certain that a life hovering above that line is nothing near easy. So, that statistic can’t even begin to capture the amount of individuals living with too little food, unsafe housing, and an immeasurable amount of stress.
And here I am in South Tucson, Arizona. As of last year, the poverty rate for this 1.2 square mile of a city was at 46.2%. That’s almost half of the population living below this “line.” The Primavera Foundation where I am working has several emergency shelters, as well a handful of transitional housing programs. As of late, they are usually all at or near capacity. Earlier this week I spent the morning in the central intake office. People can call this office to learn about and apply for housing programs. Because I am so new to the foundation, I could not actually answer telephone calls- I simply listened. Right now, the waiting period for a family in need of shelter is 100 days…. More than THREE months.  So, I sat for four hours listening to my co-worker tell these people that “we’re all full” time and time again.
Here are the two images that were left in my mind:
1.       Individual 1 says “I’m sorry we’re full.” “Ok, thank you.” “Bye.” Click. She glances down, sighs, and maybe even feels sad for this un-named individual who has just been turned away from a place to stay. But then she knows that she has to keep going. So, she goes back to the e-mail she is writing to a city official, or the grant she is writing, and easily forgets that quick conversation that will be soon repeated.
2.       Individual 2 hears: “I’m sorry, we’re full.” And then says, “Well, I’ll look elsewhere, thank you.” “Bye.” Click. She blinks a tear from her eye and smiles at her 2 small children from behind the glass of the payphone station.  She is sad, but knows that she must keep going. She walks back over to her children, and prepares to tell them that they will be spending one more night in their car. She puts the number for the shelter back in her pocket, and tells herself there will be room tomorrow.
I pray that I may find a balance between thanksgiving and anger that I’m on the first end of that phone line.  And that I may be lead to an ever-present drive to not allow this to continue to occur.
From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people. – Psalm 3:8

Friday, September 10, 2010

A New Start

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for sure. After a week in the green, rainy, cool Stony Point, NY, we headed to the hot, dry, not-so-green, but fascinatingly beautiful Tucson, AZ. We’ve unpacked our things, biked, settled into our in-need-of many-repairs home, biked some more, been to Southside Presbyterian Church, spent some time biking, and started our new jobs. Oh yeah, and did I mention we bike everywhere?

As I spent some time reflecting I thought about what I expected to feel in my return to Tucson. I expected to be reminded of painful things. I expected to be overly contemplative. And I expected to be forcing myself to stay present. But, God has blessed me incredibly as I have been here. I have been reminded of the incredible community of people that make up this culturally diverse place and the joy it brings me. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be present in this place once again. I pray that through my work and life I will learn to spread a rose-like fragrance….

“A rose does not need to preach. It simply spreads its fragrance. The fragrance is its own sermon… if it could engage a number of preachers it would not be able to sell more roses that the fragrance itself could do. The fragrance of religious and spiritual life is much finer than that of the rose…”fool don’t you see that I got it from my maker.” -- Gandhi

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's About That Time.

Hello All,
I am wondering how long it is going to take me to get used to this blogging thing- so bear with me as I'm a bit new.
Well, I leave for orientation on Monday so I've begun to think about packing, rode my bike once, and brushed some dust off the layers of my rusty espanol. Somewhat to my surprise, I have loved being at home in Waco over the past few weeks. The time I've had with parents has been a true blessing. I feel as though I've haven't been as present-minded in a very long time. I might regret my lack of thinking about the future when I get to Tucson, but I'd rather deal with a forgotten toothbrush than realize I'd wasted precious time worrying about the unknown.
I'm looking forward to meeting my future house-mates, seeing where I'm living, and starting this new chapter.