Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blog About Anawim

Robert Witham, a freelance writer, writes a nice aritcle about Anawim:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Characteristics of true Christian Service

Just heard this last week at a networking meeting by a pastor of Moasic Church. His name is Jason. I think.

The three characteristics of a Church outreach ministry to a community are:

1. No strings attached
No one is trying to just make converts or church members or even church attenders. The goal is to serve, even if the church gets nothing out of it.

2. Long Term
Outreach is not an event. Real outreach requires relationship and building trust and that only happens through time.

3. Meet Felt Needs
We are serving in the areas we are asked to serve. We don't come with a big agenda of how we will "transform" the community. Rather, we are there to serve and to be Christ-like. We must be humble and do as asked, not command the served to receive what we have to give.

The Most Important Ingredient

The main characteristic of a successful worker with the needy is endurance. For the most part, helping the needy is a much longer, more complicated process than most people would ever think necessary in our fast-paced, direct society. There aren’t twelve steps to escape homelessness nor five easy lessons to learn how to help people on the street. So if our friend isn’t making the progress we thought they should, we could show this frustration and our friend could feel blamed by us that they aren’t where we think they should be. If it seems like the need never ends, just get comfortable and enjoy the ride.

One thing that might help is to remember that the goal of our friendship is not to make our friend middle class, but to help them follow Jesus with whatever resources is available to us. So we are not here to create change in people’s lives, but to be available for when God needs someone He can use. So let’s not measure our success in ministry by how many people got off the street or who came to the Lord. Rather, we need to measure it by how much we see God using us in other people’s lives. Our ministry is as much a transformation of ourselves as well as others.

What Ministry To the Homeless is and Is not

What exactly is involved in being a friend to the homeless? Am I being asked to surrender all my possessions? Will I have to give up my privacy and security? No, not at all (at least, not much). Being a friend to the homeless isn’t all that different from having any other friend who might have more needs than most. Perhaps you won’t gain a lot of support from your friend. At the same time, however, you might be surprised at how insightful your friend is!

Christian ministry to the homeless:

is about building trust. We want to develop a positive, trusting relationship with our street friend, despite all the obstacles which hinder that trust.

involves learning. Our street friends have a different way of life and a different way of thinking about life. We need to be in a position to learn their thinking rather than criticize it. If we learn the way our street friend thinks, we will be in a better position to help them.

requires listening. The most important thing we can do is help our street friend know that they are important -- enough for us to hear their trials, difficulties and emotions.

is supportive. When our friends on the street are down, we want to encourage them. When they are in crisis, we want to give suggestions for solutions; many times they don’t know what to do.

makes connections. We want to let our friends on the street know about those who might help them. Some of them will give them survival support, while others will supply counsel or wisdom. We also need to keep in regular contact with our street friends, and go out to do things with them, such as eating together, doing something helpful together or just having fun.

provides opportunities. We need to provide opportunities for change or help so that our street friends know what the possibilities are and how they can take advantage of them.

offers mediation. We can offer to communicate between our street friend and others who might be trying to understand them, but with difficulty. If we have listened well, we might understand our street friend better than the social workers or doctors who have been assigned to them. Sometimes we have to explain what our street friend means, in a language the workers can understand.

is empowering. Our support and listening, in fact, all that we do, is geared toward helping our street friend do what they need to do themselves. We don’t want to be doing things for them, as if they were a child, but give them the opportunity to help themselves be who God wants them to be.

involves prayer. We must pray for our street friend regularly, allowing God to hear the needs and cries of one for whom no one else is praying.

The Christian minister to the homeless is not:
a mentor. To be a “mentor”, many people believe, is to assume that we are running our own lives perfectly and, thus, we are helping “the helpless” get their lives straightened out. We need to be humble, recognizing our own failings and our own position as a peer, not a leader.

a parent. We cannot be a replacement mother or father for our street friend. We are not there to command or to provide for them. We are there to support, not to be an authority.

a police officer. It is not our task to punish or judge our street friend if they do something self destructive or illegal. We should certainly encourage them not to go on a path of self destruction, but we want to be the agent of God’s grace, not judgment.

a housing supervisor. We are not to tell our street friend how to live, how to keep their house or who they let stay with them. We can, however, make suggestions, give our own opinions, and then pray, allowing God’s Spirit to speak to them.

a policy provider. We are not there to make rules for our street friend. But we may encourage them to establish their own rules that make sense to them.

a judge. If someone thinks differently than we do, it is not our job to determine what their relationship to God is. We allow God to speak to them and just encourage our friend to seek God.

an enabler. We do not want to provide the means for our street friend to do something against God or against those they know. If we provide money thoughtlessly or help our friend destroy themselves, then we are not being a minister, but a destructive agent, even if it feels that we are “helping” them.

Jesus. We cannot save our street friend, or determine the means by which they must be saved. Jesus is the only One who saves, and the Spirit is His representative to all people. We must allow the Spirit to do His work, while we provide support for what the Spirit is doing in our street friend’s life.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How Jesus Anawim Works

There are equal and opposite extremes between the gospel and culture: assimilation and complete rejection. Most churches are somewhere in the midst of some compromise between these two extremes. The Amish are at one extreme, rejecting all of culture until it can be found to be acceptable to the spiritual life of the community. However, even in the Amish there are cultural assumptions that are not biblical, such as a farming lifestyle as well as clothing fashions that might be more than a hundred years old, but they aren’t two thousand years old. Even so, some churches or youth groups seem to be completely assimilated, yet if there is any preaching of God’s word, then even the most liberal churches are a compromise between the gospel and modern culture, not true assimilation.

Culture, of course, is itself a compromise between traditionalism and new ideas. Any culture, as traditional as it seems, is an evolved form from the old ways of doing things and more recent. Perhaps a culture—such as hidden societies untouched by the world—seem so ancient to us. But every culture, without exception, is touched by human innovation. The more humans that touch the culture, the more innovation, but innovation and creativity is a part of every culture.

And with every innovation, there is a traditionalist portion of a culture that is disgusted by the innovation. It is not simply a disagreement about the innovation—it is an out and out revulsion. As if the innovation is the one item that would undermine the basis of the traditional culture. Sometimes the traditionalists—those who distrust innovation—are right. Some innovations really do undermine traditional culture. Some ideas are so radical, so in opposition to where a culture has been, that the older culture would no longer be comfortable in the newer one, should the innovations really take hold. In this way do the traditionalists rise up in opposition to certain innovations. Of course, traditionalists are not opposed to all innovation—only those that undermine the basic values of their traditional culture.

And innovation does not always win the day. Culture always progresses, but not always in the direction of new innovation. In fact, radical innovation often creates a backlash of traditional values, creating a pendulum swing. Should the battle be strong enough, then a culture war develops, battle lines are drawn and the whole world is seen to be on either one side or the other.

A compromise culture is usually created near the center of the battle lines. Thus a new set of values, philosophies, systems and cultural icons are created out of the previous battle. This new cultural consensus becomes the new tradition. When the next radical innovation comes, then it is this synthesis that feels attacked and creates the new battle lines.

In church culture, it seems that the traditionalists hold sway, but this is far from true. There are many innovationalists within church culture. The traditionalists in the church often have the older resources to have a louder voice, but innovationalists also have a strong voice, however weaker it is than the traditionalists. In this manner, the church can be an active participant in both sides of the culture wars.

The traditionalists seem to be more the heart of the church, because they have been able to use the cultural trappings of the church for longer periods of time. They have traditional songs and their interpretation of Scripture has been repeated so many times that it is the assumed “correct” interpretation of Scripture. What must be remembered, however, is what the Christian innovationalists repeat ad nauseum: that the traditionalists were once the innovationalists of old. That they do not, nor ever have had, a monopoly on “truth.”

This may seem to the innovationalists that their truth is equal to the truth of the traditionalist. In a sense, that is so—they could both be equally wrong. And they probably both are. Because, as different as they seem they are fundamentally the same—they are both swayed by the repeated a priori assumptions of their party, rather than seeking for truth in a semi-objective manner, recognizing their own weaknesses as seekers of God’s values as well as their oppositional parties.

The difference between the church and the rest of the world is the third group that is neither traditionalist nor innovationalist—or, one might say, they are both. These are the group that interprets the various culture battles via the word and acts of Jesus. Not necessarily by the “Bible” in general. The Bible is to vast, too varied of opinion, too complex in values to really pinpoint. But Jesus, as a single, but powerful force in the Bible, is much easier to read and understand. When interpreted against himself alone, his words and deeds act as a single testimony that continually speak to and challenge the church, as well as the rest of the world.

And within the church are those who do not align themselves with either the traditionalists or the innovationalists, but with Jesus alone. This group would instinctively see the weaknesses of both groups and so could not stand behind either. Because they would separate themselves from the culture wars and instead, in standing with Jesus, mount a lifestyle “attack” on all sides.

The innovationalist sees the Jesus follower as traditional, because they would accept a few of the values of traditionalist that they could not accept, simply because Jesus also held those values. However, Jesus is so radical, that He is seen as innovative to all cultures. Jesus is the promoter of the undermining of all systems—whether traditional or innovational. Jesus seeks to welcome the cultures that both the traditional and the innovational rejects. And Jesus does not participate in culture wars, for He is on a crusade for love of all people, which no cultural warmonger could ever support. For all war—whether martial or cultural—is a compromise of universal love.

Thus, those who focus on Jesus alone as their Lord—not the traditional Jesus, but the radical Jesus of the gospels—act as a third group in neither the traditional nor innovational parties. And this third party is what preserves the world, keeping them from destroying each other in the latest cultural war. The third party may suffer much themselves—as they accept suffering and persecution even as Jesus did—but they never fully disappear from this world. For every Jesus follower that disappears, one or two more takes his or her place.

The Jesus follower can be seen as traditional, because Jesus is the basis of all his or her values. Thus, like a traditionalist, the Jesus-follower can seem text-based and stagnant, without interest in any real change. However, since Jesus is such a radical that He has influenced the world without the world ever really accepting Him, standing for Jesus’ values and beliefs is always innovative, always outside the box. To delve deeper into Jesus’ principles of life is to automatically be seen as the outsider, the unacceptable to both the traditionalists and the innovationalists.

This is not the only manner in which the Jesus party is an outsider. The Jesus party, in following the example and principles of Jesus, is also a pursuer of the outcast. The outcast—the “sinners”, the “poor” the “needy”—are those who are seen as unacceptable to either the traditionalist or the innovationalist. Both cultural groups for one reason or another might want to adopt an outcast group, but only to bring them into their cultural agenda. Should the outcast group reject the assumptions of either the traditionalist or the inovationalist agenda, then the outcast individual remains outcast and the outcast society remains a viable cultural entity, separate from both sides of the culture war.

At the onset, it seems that the Jesus party and the outcast group are natural allies, as they have been both rejected by the main cultural forces. However, the Jesus party and the outcast societies do not share the same hopes or values any more than the Jesus party and the two main cultural groups do. The outcast societies (every broad society has at least one, often a number of them) are the children of their own sociological and cultural forces: disenfranchisement, dehumanization, sense of victimization, and a longing for being accepted for who they are. It is this last sociological force that draws the Jesus party and the outcast together: the Jesus party have a desire to accept the unacceptable and the outcast have a need for acceptance.

Nevertheless, it is a tenuous alignment. The Jesus party sees their hope in Jesus and want the outcast to seek Jesus as they do—His live, principles and His self as the center of their being. The outcast are constantly doubtful that they are being accepted for who they are, rather than for what they could be in Jesus. And those of weaker faith in the Jesus party end up standing in one cultural party or another, finally throwing their hands up in opposition to the outcast because, in the end, they believed in change more than in Jesus. But the strongest in the faith of Jesus remain with the outcast in patience and hope, because change or love is not in their hands, but in the hands of the all-powerful Spirit.

Because of this, the mainstream culture—involved in one way or another in the culture wars—don’t know what to make of the Jesus party. On the one hand, they identify with the outcast, which makes them one with the outcast. On the other side, they provide the best examples of love and society working despite differences that any culture has ever seen. Some become so oppositional against the Jesus party that they are openly attacked. Mostly, however, the Jesus party just does their work in quiet—quietly changing the world, quietly undermining all the premises of culture war.

A quiet revolution of culture, that will never completely take over the world. It remains at the edges, where it belongs.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What's Good About Being Homeless

It is difficult being homeless, do not doubt that. But if one is forced into a community, and within that community one finds excitement and boredom, joys and heartaches, family and friends—just like any other community—then the thought comes into the mind, “Why NOT be a part of this community?” Then the unjust illegality of the situation just isn’t an issue anymore. The question is: which community is the best fit for me?

Here's a brief list of good things about being homeless:
To be homeless is to refuse to run the rat race.
To be homeless is direct access to help people in need, even if you have little yourself
To be homeless is to live a radical lifestyle, on the edge
To be homeless is to be “bad” in a good way
To be homeless is to be flexible

Are The Homeless Full Citizens?

To be a full citizen is to have the right to sleep without the police harassing you.
To be a full citizen is to be allowed to live in one’s city without being told to leave.
To be a full citizen is to be given the opportunity to speak about community issues from one’s perspective.
To be a full citizen is to have the right to go to the bathroom.
To be a full citizen is to be allowed to gather with others about issues of mutual interest.
To be a full citizen is to be allowed to do legal work for one’s means.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Injustice of the Inauguration

Treating Homelessness for the Long Term, By Scott Schenkelberg, Executive Director, Miriam’s Kitchen
A Problem That Can’t Be Swept Away

"Ironic” isn’t a term often used to describe the recent inauguration of Barack Obama. But it was, in my opinion.

Despite the event’s prevailing message of diversity and inclusiveness, there was one population that was left out: the homeless.

To ensure a safe inauguration, many of DC’s streets were closed, fences were erected around the Mall, and security sweeps were made throughout the city. While these measures were an inconvenience for many of us who work in the nation’s capital, they were devastating for the homeless men, women, and children who call those areas home. The places where they sleep — parks, bridges, and streets downtown — were swept “clean” to ensure security; but, perhaps more insidiously, they were swept to present a “clean” image of America’s capital to rest of the world: one that doesn’t include desperate poverty and grinding need.

These men and women were forced to abandon their homes and belongings in a way that none of us with more conventional homes would have tolerated. While we may not like thinking of their homes as the city’s streets and parks, they are. And they were ordered to leave those homes and spend the night before inauguration in a shelter.

Some might say that this seems like humane, if not generous, treatment for folks who don’t receive this kind of service every day. The city’s ten shelters are not normally open all day. And the city doesn’t usually provide free storage for men and women who have no place else to keep their worldly possessions. But they did for inauguration. And perhaps did it in an effort to hide the image of DC’s growing homeless population.

Just like any of us have our routines, so too do those who are homeless. Where they sleep, where they eat, and where they go for services are all part of their routine. But those are a much bigger part of their lives than just being a routine, they are methods of survival. By uprooting our homeless neighbors from their homes and taking away their possessions, we negatively impacted their lives—and their chances of surviving.

This may all seem perplexing—the city gave them shelter, warmth, and food during one of the coldest days of the year. How does that negatively impact them? On its face, it all seems fair. But when you consider that many of these men and women were shipped off to shelters on the outskirts of the city, that shuttles to and from the shelters were suspended on the day of the Inauguration, and that they had no access to their belongings, it begins to take on a different appearance.

Unfortunately, these injustices aren’t limited to inauguration day. They happen every day in cities across America. The “cleansing” of the city on inauguration day is emblematic of the little consideration that is given to the trials and tribulations of people living on the streets. Rather than looking at them as a temporary blight on the American cityscape, it is time we addressed them as a population that isn’t going away.

We need to lower barriers to services for the homeless and reach out to those in need, instead of waiting for them to come to us and making it difficult for them to receive services when they finally find us. Both the expunging of the homeless from downtown DC during the inauguration and the persistent treatment of homelessness as a temporary crisis with a fixed solution is insidious because it allows us to become complacent. We can’t think of homelessness as temporary; we have to think long term.

We here at Miriam’s Kitchen believe that much like hospitals serving sick patients, agencies like ours serving homeless men and women will continue to exist. They will have to. As advocates for our guests, we believe that homelessness is not going away. Therefore, we need to focus on providing the best services for those who experience homelessness on a regular basis.

The thought that homelessness isn’t a solvable problem will rankle many who are very well intentioned. Certainly, there are things we can do to help alleviate many of the problems associated with homelessness. Cities and organizations can invest more in permanent housing, make mental health and addiction treatment services more readily available, and provide basic income supports to those living on limited means. However, there are two strikes against ending homelessness through these reforms—the laws surrounding how those with persistent mental illness are engaged in treatment and the ongoing cycle of homelessness that those who find themselves newly homeless inevitably fall into.

The current laws surrounding how those who have severe and persistent mental illness are engaged in treatment are in part born out of the civil rights movement. Concurrent with the closing of state mental hospitals, patients’ rights also changed to rightly allow patients a say in their treatment. These laws counteracted the abuse that many patients faced in a mental health system that effectively held them as prisoners throughout their lives. Now, unless you are endangering yourself or others, you cannot be treated against your will. This high litmus test comes with a caveat, though: those who are held forcibly may only be held for 72 hours, after which an administrative hearing is held to determine whether the patient is meeting this standard for hospitalization. In three days, many patients have stabilized to a point that they no longer meet this standard, and they are released. For many of these patients, this means they are released to the streets. Unfortunately, this often begins the cycle of moving from hospital to street to jail and back again. And no matter how well constructed our safety net is for these patients, some are going to fall through it.

So what can we do?

By treating homelessness as a permanent need rather than a temporary crisis, we can build lasting institutions to serve these men and women. What are needed are downtown spaces that aggregate numerous services for those who are homeless. Instead of asking those with the least ability to travel to go numerous places for services, we should be working to consolidate services and make them geographically accessible. Service providers of all stripes—mental health professionals, addictions counselors, attorneys, medical doctors, job counselors, public benefits agencies, life skill coaches, and housing providers should all be available in these centers to meet people where they are rather than making them travel.

Permanent service centers such as this also allow people to develop trust in service providers. Creating a warm and inviting environment with competent professionals and caring volunteers goes a long way to convincing vulnerable people to take the next step to recovery. It is only through long-term commitment — not measured in weeks and months, but in years and decades — that we can start to deal with the persistent needs of those who are homeless.

The inauguration swept away homelessness in DC for a few days, but it is time we faced the reality that homelessness isn’t a temporary problem with a fixed solution. It is a fixture in American society that deserves long-term solutions for long-term needs.

Scott Schenkelberg is Executive Director of Miriam’s Kitchen, a homeless services provider in Washington, DC. Each year, they provide healthy meals, comprehensive case management services, therapeutic groups, and transitional housing to more than 4,000 homeless men and women

For more information, please visit

How Does One Look Like A Bum?

My friend Styxx once said, "It's okay to be a bum, but don't look like a bum." This article I found reminds me of that:

You’re Crazy, You Smell, You Must Be Homeless
By admin on Oct 31, 2008 in Homeless Stereotypes

I pass people in the street every day and not one of them would know that I became homeless over seven months ago and am still legally registered as such. They wouldn’t know because I do not appear to fit the homeless stereotype.

I have been using twitter to study the public perception of homeless people. The following are all comments from twitter’s public time-line posted during October. They may be positive or negative reflections but all have one thing in common. See if you can spot what that factor is.

Some homeless guy is screaming “Enter Sandman” at the top of his lungs right outside my apartment.

I just saw a homeless guy skateboarding. I love this city.

Creepy homeless woman chanting something in Latin in front of a defunct protestant church. What?

Just saw a homeless crack ho with a bloody nose on the train.

A homeless man chased me and tried to steal my bike.

There is some homeless black dude in a huge wedding dress on north ave. Wtf.

Just walked past a homeless guy talking on a cell phone near wall street.

Just saw a homeless man getting beat up by a Chinese gang….welcome to san fran.

Saw the sweetest thing: Older homeless couple acting like newly weds. Lady sitting on the man’s lap just enjoying one another’s company. wow.

A band is playing outside Starbucks. There is a drunken, bearded homeless man dancing animatedly, much to the delight of patrons.

This morning on the bus, a homeless guy who smelled like dead fish sat down next to me.

I locked the bathroom door, apparently the lock was broken. On venice beach. Homeless man walked in on me.

Some crazy homeless dude at the bar keeps flicking my arm. Wicked crazy Wicked rude.

Chased by a homeless man yesterday. Scares me that I understood his insane ranting.. Strange that he showed no interest in the pizza I held.

The homeless man on roller-blades outside the venue made my night.

I just watched a homeless guy try and hurtle a barricade. I love orlando.

Creepy hooded homeless man on tram rubbed up against me. Aaaa.

All these relate to something which someone has witnessed and none give any indication that any actual conversation took place. So the question is, how can they know that the person they saw was homeless? Of course it is possible that they also witnessed this individual sleeping in an alley on a previous occasion but I doubt it. In most cases they have made an assumption based on the individual’s appearance, odor or behavior.

I did come across some statements where terms such as potentially homeless, possibly homeless or homeless-looking were used but it was a small minority. It comes as no surprise but it seems there is a general consensus that if someone in the street appears to be a combination of either drunk, dirty, smelly or behaving erratically they are often assumed to be homeless people.

There is of course a possibility that these individuals were indeed homeless but none of the factors used to make this determination are relevant. Most people will know of alcoholics who are housed. Many will know people who are often dirty or smelly but are housed. Many will also know people who are eccentric or mentally imbalanced but are housed or in care. The only real factor that determines if someone should be classed as homeless is whether or not they have a home to go to.

The problem lies in that the average person has little awareness of what constitutes homelessness and the issues homeless people face. These myth-busting homeless statistics demonstrate that the common held homeless stereotype is clearly flawed and as a result assumptions that someone must be homeless based on their appearance or behavior are regularly misplaced.

In case you still don’t think a housed person could be mistaken for homeless here are some twitter comments which demonstrate it can and does happen.

This cute little old lady thought my brother was homeless..gave him $10.

Went to Jewel in my pajamas to buy a tomato and some bitch thought I was homeless and tried to give me change. Wtf?

Work and Lifestyle

Work is a strange concept.

Not all by itself, mind you. To work is either to produce something or to serve someone. To work is to discipline one's mind and body toward a particular goal. Athletes work when they train to defeat their competitors. Mothers work when they care for their children. Artists work when they produce their art. Gardeners work when they plant, weed and harvest their plants. Administrative assistants work when they type a letter their employer has dictated. That's simple.

But we have another concept of work in our age, and it has to do with the division between work and leisure. This division isn't about how hard one works, but rather the result of the work. There are gardeners and artists who spend hours a day at their craft, honing their skills and perfecting their labor to create magnificent beauty and even practical use-- food to eat or a picture for water-- yet it is leisure, not work. Why is this? Because it is not laboring toward the basics of the modern lifestyle.

Most of us have a pretty basic concept of work: that which obtains for us a paycheck, or at least a livable income if one is self-employed. The object of work is to obtain money and the object of that money is to maintain the modern lifestyle. It doesn't matter how difficult it is to raise three children, the stay-at-home mom doesn't "work" in this use of the term. Nor does the artist or gardener who doesn't get paid.

So the CEO who spends part of his working day at the golf course "works", but his wife who has to care for a toddler and an infant at home, cleaning after them, cooking, caring, comforting, making sure that they don't eat any pencils left on the table by her thoughtless, and "overworked" husband, doesn't "work".

And as much as we might often decry the hypocrisy between these two differing definitions, our society grants honor to those who "work" in the second definition, not the first. A man might have two children: His daughter works as a computer programmer, who spends most of the day lounging about, hanging out on Facebook, talking with non-cyber friends in the office, playing cards and then, in the last hour of the day, writes out a set of brilliant programming. She gets paid a fair salary. His son also spends his day in front of the computer, but he works eight to twelve hours a day writing his novel. He hasn't found a publisher yet, but he has sent out parts of his manuscript to many. He has gotten positive feedback from others, including some in the writing industry, but fiction is a difficult and crowded market. He lives at home, but he knows his break is just around the corner. The father is proud of his daughter because of the income she receives, even though she works little. But he considers his son lazy and no good because all he does is sit in front of his computer, writing.

Honor is always given to the successful, even if they don't deserve it. Honor is granted, not to those who produce, not to the disciplined, not even to those who excel at their craft. Honor is given to those who more successfully have the means to live the lifestyle that is approved by one's community.

To not live in accordance with the community's lifestyle is a grave sin against the community. You can be working positively for a community, serving the community, producing things that is beneficial for the community, but you will always be outside the community unless you live their lifestyle, or a version of their lifestyle they approve of. The middle class version of this is to have a job, receive a paycheck, use the money to pay one's bills, rent and groceries. One must have a permanent place to live, electricity, running water, and a phone.

People can live in a different lifestyle. We know that people in third world countries do. We know, intellectually, that some live in mud huts, but it is difficult for us to imagine it. We know that some people choose to change their lifestyle for idyllic or spiritual reasons, but we know that we could never be like them and that, fundamentally, they "aren't one of us." The polite way of saying this is, "Oh, I could NEVER do that."

The impolite way is to say, "Why don't those people just work?" Which is said about the homeless all the time.

This is the source of the false idea that the homeless are "lazy". They have a different lifestyle, one not acceptable to the middle class. Of course, anyone who really thinks about the homeless lifestyle know that it takes a lot of effort to be homeless. You walk for miles from your camp to a meal site. You stay all day in the weather. You may not get much sleep on any given night.

You might recycle or dumpster dive, which means walking across the city to collect items, climbing in and out of trash cans. If you recycle, then you bring the items back to one or more stores in order to get paid for your work, which might get you a few bucks an hour.

And you are doing the community a service if you perform this kind of labor. If you dumpster dive, then you are taking things out of a landfill in order to reuse it in a productive manner. If you are recycling then you are taking items that would have gone to a landfill and turning it back to industrial use. Other homeless spend their days cleaning trash off of sidewalks.

But rather than look at the "work" of the homeless, most people only see the non-"work" of the homeless. They are considered part of a "leisure class" those who are living off of society without serving it. It isn't true, however. The fact that their labor isn't leading them to a lifestyle that they are comfortable with. The amount of effort required to live a homeless lifestyle doesn't impress most of the populace. Rather, they are disgusted that anyone would live in a third world environment in their golden empire.

The fact is, most people on the street don't want to be there, but all their effort has done nothing to obtain the middle class lifestyle. But even if some do choose to be on the street-- who are we to judge? Who are we to say that everyone must work 40 hours a week to support someone else's goals and to prop up their inflated lifestyle so we can have an inflated lifestyle of our own?

Being homeless is hard work. Really. But perhaps it might be worth it if we took on some of the simplicity of that lifestyle on our own.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Essential Info About Diane!

1. I'm a military brat (an auspicious beginning for a Mennonite pastor's wife) and have lived in 6 states and 2 other countries.

2. I used to secretly look under toadstools for fairies. What!? How do you KNOW they're not real?!

3. I don't see how anyone who has tasted chocolate can possibly be an atheist.

4. On a similar note, although I love ice cream, who needs ice cream when you have mashed potatoes?

5. I think ipods would be better if they had buttons.

6. When I was a year old I asked for milk. My mom gave it to me in a cup, but I wanted a bottle. She held firm and so did I. I was 13 before I discovered that milk actually tasted pretty good. The difference between then and now is that I don't scream and drum my heels on the floor when I'm feeling stubborn anymore. :-)

7. My earliest favorite T.V. shows were Dark Shadows and Dragnet. I was 3.

8. I used to have a total crush on Aragorn. Mind you, we're talking about the real Aragorn--not the one in the movie.

9. My "comfort read" authors are Georgette Heyer, Diana Wynne Jones, and Dick Francis.

10. Um... I'm feeling very compelled to add the dozens of other authors that are my particular favorites, but I won't. They're not my "comfort reads".

11. I have never seen American Idol or Survivor.

12. I am firmly convinced that there will be no itching in Heaven.

13. It turns out that babies DON'T come from under cabbage leaves, after all. My first one treated me to 6 months of morning sickness, a 36 hour labor, a c-section, and then colic 24 hours a day. And then I had 2 more! Makes you wonder, huh?

14. But as proof that I am not a masochist, I submit the fact that I do not own any heels or panty hose.

15. I used to read about the sentient computers in Orson Scott Card and Robert Heinlein and then I actually got on a computer. What a disapointment! It was a very long time before I would even try to do anything on computers. They're just so boring compared to the ones in my books.

16. I like to say things with flair. Some might call it an addiction. But hey, have you seen the price of greeting cards lately? And flair is free! Woo hoo!!! Happy days!!! I think I need to excuse myself for a moment. The flair is calling....

17. My husband and I had a creed in high school of "4 Things We Agree On". These were (1) Steve
is an idiot, (2) Diane is impossible, (3) we hate each other, and (4) we never agree on anything.
Boy, did we have a lot of fun with that. We had a very literal friend who just found the whole
thing crazy-making.

18. Food always sounds yummy if there's cream in the ingredients. Mmmmm... cream.

19. I prefer talking on the phone to written communication, and talking face-to-face over both.

20. I broke my nose in high school playing the dangerous contact sport of badminton.

21. Steve was my first Christian friend. We met in 10th grade and I thought it was so cool that he was a believer, too. In fact, I discovered it over a discussion of Narnia.

22. We went to the top of Multnomah Falls as a family when Mercy was 5 1/2 weeks old. Ian ran the whole way, the little energy vampire.

23. I've never had a driver's license.

24. I once met a king. Well, a sheikh actually.

25. The movie "Purple Rose of Cairo" had one of the worst endings in movie history. I still feel the need for therapy 24 years later. But as my flair tells me, screaming obscenities is cheaper. So consider them screamed.