La Frontera 2016

Wednesday 9 November 2016

I have a lot of printed t-shirts hanging in my closet, and I’m usually thoughtful about which one I wear on a given day. Yesterday, working the election polls, I decided to go with my Chicago neighborhoods tee (which looks like this, but on a shirt).

Today, flipping through my shirts, I stopped and pulled down my Camp Mowana “La Frontera” theme shirt. The meaning that we were shared (at least as I internalized it) of “La Frontera” was of a place between, neither here nor there, a place of transition from what was to what is to come. In seeing that word and what it’s come to mean for me in the 10+ years since I obtained the shirt, I decided it was the appropriate way to capture my mood this day. (The shirt is subtitled “Where Jesus Meets Us” for some context for the camp’s choice of theme.)

Sitting here, the day after our citizenry (or at least those of age who decided to vote and are not restricted by law from doing so) went to the polls and elected a man who has shown callous disregard for so many different groups of people, I feel between. We’re obviously moving forward, at least in terms of calendar time, but it’s also clear that we’re in the middle of something big.

While there were likely many people who voted for Donald J. Trump out of animus for specific groups and peoples (Blacks, Muslims, Mexicans, Immigrants, Jews, even women), I suspect that that population alone would not have been enough to propel Trump to the presidency. Instead, there were many who simply turned a blind eye to this part of Trump, taking an “It’s not that important” stance to these issues and focusing instead on his anti-establishment rhetoric and their dissatisfaction with the political status quo when dealing with their (economic) lives.

Whatever the reason citizens opted to vote for Trump (who appears to have not even received the most votes overall, just enough in the right states—but that’s a topic for another day), our country will soon know the leadership of a man who embodies a white supremacist and xenophobic framework, supported by an electorate who at worst find this trait positive and at best find it negligible. (I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that I believe failing to condone such oppression is unacceptable and as good as promoting  that oppression.)

For me, this time—definitely this day, likely the next two months, but perhaps also the coming four or more years—has all the feelings of what I envision for La Frontera. It will be a time of struggle as we figure out where our country, full of a vast number of peoples with a vast number of beliefs and ideals, goes from here.

How can we create a land where all people are able to live in peace and comfort and seek self-fulfillment? How do we heal the wounds that (not only this election cycle but) our history has given so many of us? How do we listen to one another and recognize that my ability to live a full and valuable life does not depend on others suffering, and vise versa?

There are no easy answers, and (as always) the outcome of this election, no matter who had won, didn’t make these questions any less relevant. After all, it takes more than a president to change a country (see: Barack Obama).

As we move through La Frontera, it is important for all of us to ask ourselves what our role will be in the healing future of our country and its peoples. If you’re seeking a place to start on this first Wednesday after the first Monday in November, I recommend it be there.

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For you this Christmas

Tuesday 25 December 2012

It’s always about more than you.

“Wright’s Law”

(Watch the video first.)


movement is challenging

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Being a transient/nomad/wanderer — whatever you want to call it — isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  I think I can speak as an expert, currently living in my 4th zip code in the past 12 months, with the two months prior to that being out of the country!  There are upsides to it, to be sure, but what brings me to blog today are challenges!

What’s striking me today as a rough part of jumping from place to place (to place) is having so many people I love scattered so far away from me, and what that means for my sense (or lack of) cohesive community.  Virtually every time I want to visit a friend or family member, it’s a “trip,” which usually means some sort of planning in advance, doesn’t happen very frequently for a repeat trip, and most likely means an overnight stay with whomever I’m visiting (unless I’m visiting multiple people in one place — which happens sometimes — but I still have to stay somewhere).

I’ve been lucky enough to keep pretty good connections with my family and with friends I’ve met in past stops along my journey, via telephone and letter writing, but there’s something special that happens in the presence of another that seems (at least for me) to rejuvenate more deeply the bond I have with the other.  I love all these people very much — that’s part of why I make the effort to stay in touch with them — but if I had my way, I’d love to pack us all up and set us down in one place, able to enjoy cookouts and hikes and movies and festivals together at a moment’s notice and still be able to head back to our own beds at the end of the day.

Every time you live in a place, you start setting down roots.  And every time you leave, you may keep some of those connections, but you have to virtually start over again.  And I’m getting tired.  I don’t know where I want to set down my final roots, which is part of the challenge, but it’s getting exhausting having to reboot myself every few months.

And I know this can’t just be just.  My generation is probably the most transient yet, and this wears on a person.  I may be taking it to an extreme lately, but any amount of restarting is challenging.  And part of the problem is that because everyone else is so transient, too, it’s hard to plop yourself into much of a meaningful group once you get to a new place because there hasn’t been enough time for one to form yet (not always, but in many instances)!  Instead, our generation seeks community online or isolates oneself in front of the TV, a book, or any other way they can find.

I do think my moving all around has given me some perspective, but when I finally plug myself into a community that I will want to engage and connect with, will I have enough energy left to use all the experiences I’ve been through to get there?  I guess I’ll see!… One day c:


Africa — wow!

Monday 7 April 2008

From approximately 27 March – 4 April 2008, I was in Zambia, Africa. My experiences there are far too many to put into one blog post, that’s for sure, but I thought I’d try to write a little something about my time there today and see if I want to write more another time.

I guess what I want to say is that Americans really just don’t realize that it is possible to be happy without very much “stuff.” America is a country built on materialism — don’t you agree? — and that’s pretty easily observed by traveling to (parts of) Africa and recognizing the vast contrasts between the two places. Leaving a land where some families have more cars than people to arrive in one where families have no electric or running water (and are lucky if they have a well/hand pump to obtain clean water from), I saw the stark differences of Zambia and the USA. But who was happier?

I think we could all agree there are certain basic things a person should have and that as probably requirements for finding contentment: enough food and water; a safe and protected living environment; access to sufficient medical care; shoes and clothing. Maybe you’d add some more. The point is, though, that there is no requirement of iPods or Mercedes or even televisions and computers to be happy or content, and I was able to experience that very poignantly while in Zambia. One evening we were able to have dinner and fellowship with members of one of the “villages” on the farm where we stayed. Before dinner, some of us (visitors and hosts alike) played with a soccer ball and sang songs, and we shared in conversation before eating dinner (in the dark because one of the cooks had taken too long in making her food). We were smiling and enjoying one another’s company, and I think we were all pretty happy. Most of us only spoke one language, — English or Tonga — though, so I never really got to ask, but I enjoyed my evening.

If you know me, you know I tend to live a pretty simple life. I indulge in movies and pop culture, to be sure, but I seek to live pretty simply. When I told someone I survived living in DC for only about $650 a month (including rent!), she was pretty shocked. But just because I forego the pricy food or the 64″ TV (though it’s pretty tempting) doesn’t mean I’m not happy. I think I’ve said it before, but once you have those basics covered, I really believe it’s all about the relationships and people in your life that make things worth it.

It’s truly an injustice that there are people in Zambia (and America, to be sure) who live without running water; who live without readily available resources to deal with certain medical problems they might encounter; who live with only one or two pairs of clothing and maybe nothing to wear on their feet; who lack enough food to meet their bodily needs.

What isn’t an injustice is that some people don’t have televisions or 50 shirts or cars that gulp down 10 gallons of gas to drive 150 miles. Perhaps the injustice is not that some people don’t have these things but that so many people do.


the gift of life

Monday 3 March 2008

As I left work today, I declared, “I’m off to give the gift of life.” Now, if I were dating someone (or I suppose even if not), that could easily have some other connotations, I suppose, but I was merely declaring that I was off to donate blood with the Red Cross.

Late last week one of my co-workers can in, telling us to give blood (I think he had met up with someone who worked at the blood center) — I had wanted to give blood in the fall, but it had just never worked out, and I tried to actually give in December in Ohio, but I couldn’t fit it into my schedule then either. So finally I just went and did it! And as I was reminded by my friend, since I’m going to Africa shortly, this will be the last chance I have for a long while (as there is a significant — maybe a year? — waiting period after traveling to Africa, which seems kind of silly to me, I guess…)

I’ve been lucky to be able to “give life” for the past 8 years, and I think I’ve maybe given close to 16 pints, which isn’t too bad. However, if you went as often as possible, one could about 6 times a years! My dad, as a diabetic, can’t give blood, and my mom has recently had iron issues after many years of giving — I’d claim her as my donating influence. But even so, though most people qualify to give blood, the statistic I saw today said only about 5% of that pool actually does!  I understand people have issues with needles or blood, which I can understand, but I think the number of people with those kind of issues probably isn’t 95% of the qualifying population.

Giving blood is actually pretty easy and quick, too.  I’m again lucky here, because I have HUGE veins and blood that comes out quickly — I actually left the center before two of the people ahead of me even left their beds.  And the perks are pretty good, too!  I got myself an umbrella as a gift (though it was make in China — not so good), which happens sometimes but not always, but they do always have free snacks with your visit, even if you get denied from giving blood (most places I’ve been, at least).  And the Red Cross has there own Top Ten reasons, too!

So I just thought I’d bring to light one of those “little things” you can do to make a big difference — this is really the only way people can get blood when they need it (we can’t create blood in the lab that I know yet).  It’s not one of those little things that we do to feel better while we ignore the larger problem, either — it’s just something you should think about doing sometime soon if you qualify and don’t hate needles/blood.  Just call 1.800.GIVE.LIFE


the people in your life

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Ever since my blog about 1 million Iraqis being killed in the past 5 years, I’ve been thinking about whether or not I actually might know a million people. The perfectionist in me wants to make an excel spreadsheet list of all the people I’ve met (and remember enough to write down) in the past 25 or so years of my life, but the realist in me knows that would take quite a while and probably not be worth it in the end — and it would likely become just another list I’d want to keep track of as I meet more people, kind of like my ever changing imdb.com list of movies I’ve seen (those I want to see but haven’t just aren’t rated).  Plus, it would kind of be sad, deconstructing the humanity of relationships into simple spreadsheet.

So instead of turning my life into meaningless statistics, I instead try to think about all the lives of others that have intersected mine. There are definitely people I’ve been in the same room with that I’ve ran across but I would not say I “met” and certainly never “knew” them. And there are surely people who’ve “known” me but I never had contact with — those students for who my name came up in conversation and who were aware of my presence but for who I wasn’t their teacher would be one example. If you let the idea of “knowing” someone require the act of an introduction and/or conversation having taken place, the list becomes a little more exclusive, but even then I’m still amazed at the variety and abundance of people I’ve met and places I’ve met them.

School is one of the larger segments of ways I know people. Since I went to such a small school containing pretty much the same people K-12, perhaps I know fewer people than others that way, though with that small town, too, I came to know most of the people in the community in one way or another, and they can’t be forgotten about. I also know a lot of people form college — classes, dorms, and students groups — and if facebook would have came around a few years earlier, I might have a better estimate of just how many people that might have been.

Church and groups with a spiritual aspect are definitely another big connection for me. I’ve attended (regularly) about 4 churches in my life and have built lasting relationships with people in all of them. I’ve also attended many conferences, retreats, assemblies, and gatherings where I added more people to my “list.” I’ve met and formed many amazing relationships with those associated with Lutheran Volunteer Corps — volunteers, LVC staff, and the many people I met during my trip or otherwise recruiting for LVC. And this section would in no way be complete if I didn’t mention Camp Mowana. I’ve probably worked with around 100 people who were on staff while I was there, and then there are the hundreds, if not thousands, of campers and pastors/volunteers who I met during my time as a counselor. Because I have an issue with names, many of those campers would probably be slighted in a name-specific list format, so that’s another reason not to make one.

And then you have all the other somewhat random ways in which I’ve met people — parties, game night, community organizing, friends of friends, rugby/curling/frisbee/etc., jobs/work not listed above — I’m sure I could name many more ways. I invite you to reminisce about the many people who have stepped in (and maybe out) of your life, making it what it is today, for they are the ones who have truly brought it joy and meaning.

And I invite you (as always) to leave some of your comments about ways you’ve met some of the people in your life and why you find them special — be as specific or as general as you’d like, but I think it’s good to really give credit to those who make this life worth living.


happy new year!

Monday 31 December 2007

So here on the east coast, it’s only a few short hours until the new year.

“New Year’s Eve and it’s hard to believe another Zodiac’s gone around.” — Semisonic, ‘This Will Be My Year”

2008 already. I could get all nostalgic on you, I guess, but I’ll try to refrain. To me, it’s sometimes just amazing to look back on a year and realize all that I’ve packed into 12 months, the places I’ve been geographically, mentally, and spiritually, and just how different of a person I am than I was this time last year. But really, when you look back no matter how far, isn’t life in itself pretty amazing? To think how much we all really do in the short time we’re on this earth is pretty crazy. What differences do you see in yourself, and what accomplishments or memories would you not trade for anything?

The new year is a great time for “resolutions” of change, and I think that’s great, though it’s usually just something that we already wanted to change about ourselves and the start of a new year gives us just a good enough excuse to do it. I rarely make them, at least not seriously, as I constantly try to be refining myself and hope to not be dictated by something as insignificant (in the scheme of things) as a new calendar year.

In any case, I do hope 2007 was for you a magnificent year, and I wish for all of you a great 2008, whatever it may bring and wherever it may take you. Peace —