Thursday, October 29, 2015

October 29, 2015

I'm sorry I'm so depressing.  It must be tough to read these journal entries.  But, here we go again.

I posted this on Facebook yesterday:

Sunshine was sleeping in her tent in Gresham. The night before, someone had tried to steal her and her camp-mates possessions to get them to move. Two days ago they decided to light her tent on fire.
Sunshine is now in the he hospital with severe burns.

I just met Sunshine last month.  Nice, happy gal, like her name.  She's probably okay.  She got into a hospital with one of the best burn centers in the country.  It's possible, but not likely, that a social worker at the hospital will go to bat for her and get her housing, or at least some help.  

The response to this post was pretty strong.  People were just shocked, stunned that this could happen to anyone.  But the more the outrage grew, the more depressed I became.

Honestly, this is everyday stuff.

Every time we hear about a "homeless sweep" what that means is that a government agency steals the homeless folks possessions, and takes them to an undisclosed location, unavailable to get to by bus.  To get their possessions back, the homeless person has to show their ID, which was probably taken with the rest of their possessions, so their items are gone.  Now they have to somehow get a sleeping bag, a tent and a tarp or else they will be cold and wet that night. In threat of dying, because hypothermia can set in at 40 degrees. And you can't get into a hospital due to threat of hypothermia.

I don't know why I'm depressed.  I mean, we are getting some kind of response, right?

Maybe I'm depressed because I've been carrying this horror upon a whole group of our society for so long, and just now people are waking up to it.

Maybe I'm depressed because I asked for money to help us get tarps and tents and sleeping bags, and just a very little trickled in.  Sunshine will need a tent.  And those who shared her tent.  But so does Amber and Chuck and Jay and so many others.  It's pouring down rain and getting colder every day.

Maybe I'm depressed because its so hard to watch my friends come to me, shaking in fear or in fury because of the injustices they have to face daily, from the police officer that gives an exclusion from his city to a disabled elderly woman and her son who assists her, to the neighbor who shouts threats at homeless people every day.

Maybe I'm depressed because the more than 20 years have come full circle.  One of the earliest homeless men we met was Toby, who slept on a couch in a nearby park.  
One day some kids got into an argument with him because he stopped them from participating in something illegal in the park. So they came that night and while he was asleep, set his couch on fire. He ended up so severely burned that he is permanently in adult foster care. When I visited him, he couldn't walk, could barely speak, he couldn't feed himself.  Setting homeless people on fire seems like the worst insult, the gravest sign of dehumanization.  What happened to Sunshine reminds me of this.

But probably the real reason I'm depressed is because the response to the attack on Sunshine's camp is pretty weak.  Lots of sympathy, lots of responses of horror.  Some anger at the government or the police, although they had nothing to do with it.  Some money so Sunshine can get herself another tent.  

But the real response should be to meet a group of homeless people, find one you can relate to and feel safe around and move them into your house.  This is the only way to prevent such tragedies, such horrors. The homeless are the most vulnerable population.  African Americans are vulnerable, but African American homeless have it worse.  The mentally ill are vulnerable, but the mentally ill on the street are a hundred percent more so.  Transsexual folks are extremely vulnerable, but so much more on the street. 

If the government actually helps, it will be a small amount and after a long time, and only if a new administration doesn't take the help away.  We need to stop sucking the tit of a mother who isn't interested in giving.   The only way to stop these daily tragedies is to take it in our hands to welcome one person into our homes, and help them out.  It only takes some of us.  Why can't it be us?

I know the issues: "We have a family.  I'm a single woman and I don't feel safe."  Then why don't you bring in a small family, or a single woman into your house whom you feel safe with?  These excuses are simply the prejudices against the homeless coming out, the assumption that they all use drugs, that they are violent, that they are scary.

You know what's really scary?  Sleeping in a thin tent to protect yourself from the rain, knowing that there is a policeman or a neighbor who hates you-- hates!-- and will do almost anything to get rid of you.  This is the reality for millions tonight.  You don't have to help millions.  Just one.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

October 22, 2015

I'm trying to adjust to my new schedule, trying to limit myself and not get caught up being "busy" like I was before, but still try to maintain the minimum necessary to keep Anawim going.  This week I visited the monastery again, which I plan to do on a regular basis, about every other week.  It felt so good, just being in silence, focusing on God and listening.  It is a right choice to do that more regularly.

After a month of feeling actual "rest", I have returned to a regular working schedule and I am all worn out again.  Didn't take long.  This isn't a surprise.  I'm 90 percent sure that all of my symptoms and difficulties are a result of adrenal fatigue.  I've got pretty much all the symptoms.  And this doesn't just go away easily.  It takes years of a balanced life.  Well, then I've got some time to go.

But I've been feeling so angry.  This isn't unusual for me, but my anger was usually associated with me feeling overwhelmed.  Now I'm angry for the homeless, for the unfair abuses they suffer and for the injustice they endure under the state.  I just watched a video of a camp sweep, and a person was told that he couldn't get his bicycle and clothes and ID because they "already inventoried it".  It's all sitting there, in bags, but he doesn't get his possessions.  And he will never get them, because to prove who he is, he would have to have his ID.

In the area of town we are in, Gresham, there seems to be a new attitude toward the homeless.  Citizens are asking for more help for them, and realizing that they aren't the problem children of the community.  But nothing is being done anyway.  And I want to advocate, get more involved, but I'm so tired.  And I don't want to break.

So I write and write and post and write some more.  I guide and suggest resources and get my friends involved.  But I feel out of the loop.  Maybe that's a good thing.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

October 11, 2015

It was a strange night last night on the SE 188th Max platform.
I guess every night there is kinda strange, because I was there a few nights ago and there were a dozen police officers and four fare inspectors standing on the platform, both sides. When my Max train got there, they all got on the train, checked everyone’s (all six of us) tickets three times and then exited the train to stand and chat on the platform again. Anyway…
As Diane and I approached the platform last night, we were immediately accosted by a young man who insisted that we take some of his mint gum, at no cost. “It’s for the environment,” he claims. Diane takes some because it’s difficult for him to take a “no.”
Diane sits on a bench and there’s 18 minutes till the train. A minute later a couple approaches us, and it’s new people from Anawim, and the gal says, “Look, someone we know!” and she plops herself down next to Diane and tells her that she’s from a small town and she’d kinda freaked by Portland.
A minute later a large stranger comes up to us and tells us a long story about how he lost his cell phone that morning. Everyone was very friendly last night.
Then an older woman came by our impromptu party. She tried unsuccessfully to pass by the “environmental gum” guy, and he insisted that she take some of his gum. She tried to refuse, but he continued to offer his wares and finally she turned to him in front of us all and said, “Leave me alone! I’m a Christian!”
Which prompted the guy talking to me and I to laugh and wonder what kind of Christian she was who wouldn’t take gum.
This reminds me of another time, many years ago, when I was in Bangladesh and I was taking a baby taxi from one location to another in the very busy city of Dakka. As the taxi was stopped at a light, a man came by and accosted me, “You want a girl? I can get you a girl.”
I shook my head, but he insisted. So I said, “No, I don’t. I’m a Christian.”
Unfazed, he said, “You want a Christian girl? I can get you one.”
I guess the moral of my stories is saying “I’m a Christian” is a pretty poor excuse for doing or not doing anything. I mean Christians can do anything, right?

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Wild Abandon

Grace does not teach us to be responsible.
It doesn’t train us to care for ourselves and our own.
Rather, God sets us free to the wild abandon of mercy
Allowing us to fall into the windstorm of love

And to be a conduit of that most chaotic of charities—compassion.

October 7 2015

Well, my month of rest is over.  I still have some conclusions to draw, but I think I have a plan.

The first week of September was really just organizing Anawim, raising up leadership, closing up loose ends.

Then I spent about ten days with my parents who live a quiet retired lifestyle, and have a guest room which they allowed me to use.  This gave me an opportunity to set some things aside in my mind, to focus on my spirituality and to begin a regimen of  exercise  (oh yeah, haven't exercised this morning... be right back... there, that's done), and to get some tips about eating right, which they have got down to a science now.

You know, the tough part about any new discipline is remembering.  If I don't remember to exercise physically and spiritually every day, then my overall life will be worse for it.  That would be heading toward a downward spiral.

Then I spent four days at the local Trappist Monastery, near Newberg OR.  This gave me some separated space with God, some personal counsel that I desperately needed.

And I just got back from a week at a friend's beach house in Waldport, OR.  I have to thank my friend Sylvia for driving and arranging for me to be driven at all these various places because I've been going with a suspended license.  No driving for me until October 19!

Diane (my wife) came with me to Waldport, and we took pictures and generally relaxed.  She was so serine and happy there-- a house she could clean, and no crises or work or public transportation to deal with.  I wish she could have had longer there.

For me, I actually had an opportunity to relax there.  I spend one whole day just organizing my music, and I didn't get bored or exhausted.  That was different for me.  I've been waking up at 5, exhausted, but I'm willing to live with that.  Diane also cooked so much that despite my previous efforts, I'm afraid I gained more weight there.  Well, there's time to start again.

So today I head back to Anawim and start making plans for a permanent change.  Don't pray for me.  Pray for them.