Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Where is Home?

This last weekend I traveled back to Oregon, both to attend the wedding of a close college friend and to see my lovely girlfriend, who is still attending Linfield College. As I came into view of the city of Portland, a city in which I lived near and was involved in for the last 5 years of my life until now, I thought to myself: “This weekend is really going to mess me up.”

I think there is something very dangerous about returning to a situation we've been in that is “comfortable.” I loved Linfield. Scratch that. I love Linfield. It is a beautiful and powerful place that has dramatically influenced the person I am becoming, and influenced the person I am striving to be. But returning to Linfield this weekend was a difficult, straining thing for me, because I felt so content and comfortable there.

My girlfriend gave me a hard time prior to my coming back, because while I was only around for 2 days, news had spread quickly on our small college campus that I would be around.“Everyone likes you Luke! They're so happy you're coming!” Now, I am NOT traditionally good at keeping touch with people if we are separated by distance, and the same has been true in the time I've been in Tucson. Quite honestly, I have failed at maintaining many relationships back at Linfield. But upon returning this weekend, I was so overwhelmed by the support and love I was shown by those I hadn't even talked to in months and months—they wanted to hear all about what I was doing, how I liked it—and they care because they know that what I'm doing matters so much to me. They know me well enough to know that while what I'm choosing to do might not be their personal preference for their future plans, it makes ME very happy and fulfilled, and therefor they are excited for me.

I'm now sitting on the plane flying back to Tucson, and I think that feeling “known” by people is a luxury of being invested somewhere. I'm now around 7 weeks into the program, and while I have made so many contacts and friendships that I am very excited about, I think a part of me is still striving to be “known.”

That isn't to say that people haven't reached out to me. My roommates are all incredible, awesome folks that I feel so lucky and blessed to live with. I think that we've started to break down the barriers that we each come in with, some of us more than others. And I'm excited that as the year goes on, we'll grow more comfortable with each other, and hopefully, feel known, supported, and loved by those who surround us on a daily basis.

Yet it is quite difficult to return to the comfortable situation at Linfield, just for a brief visit, and then jump back into the uncertainty and unknown of Tucson. I long for the feeling of community that I find when I return “home” to Linfield.

That's what we're all striving for, I think. Community, on so many different levels. Community with the people we're living with. Community with the people we're working with. Community with the people we attend religious services with. Community with the folks who attend the religious service across the street that we might disagree with. Community with the people in our neighborhood. Community with people who share our passions, our innermost yearnings for peace, reconciliation, alleviation of poverty, inter-religious understanding.

I don't know how we accomplish a sense of community similar to the one I feel at Linfield in one year instead of five. Maybe we don't. But I know from my experiences that community doesn't necessarily happen because we try to make it happen. The most genuine communities of which I've been a part have occurred organically, when people simply meet each other where they're at, with open hearts and listening ears.

Open hearts and listening ears.

I want to share your pain and multiply your joy.

I want to give you room to speak, room to process, room to vent, without an agenda of my own, but with the desire to have your voice heard and respected.

Open hearts and listening ears.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On My Own

Earlier this week I had a couple really cool experiences at work. Monday I was working with Dan Regier, a longtime CHRPA worker, and we visited a house with both a swamp cooler problem and a toilet/tile problem in the bathroom. Dan and I looked at the two jobs, and then he looked at me, and asked “Do you feel comfortable working on the cooler by yourself?” And I was able to say yes.

Tuesday I was working with Kristi and she wasn't feeling well, so after we built a new banister for a client and stopped to eat lunch, she went home to rest and recover. Scott (my director) turned me loose for the afternoon to finish the job that Kristi and I were originally going to do. It wasn't something I'd done before, but Scott explained what I needed to do and felt comfortable sending me, so away I went!

There's a certain pride about working on a job (or even an aspect of a job) by yourself. I noticed that I felt a great deal more ownership of the jobs, taking full responsibility, rather than being a helper for the more experienced employees. Suddenly I became a lot more of a perfectionist. I questioned everything I did: Is this good enough? And, without anyone else there to sign off on the work I was doing, I had to have confidence in what I had done before I could walk away.

I'm still learning, but it was a great feeling to be adequate enough at my job to go do it alone. I've been here just over a month now, but I've already learned so much.

I think we all have a lot to learn, if we are willing to put ourselves in positions where we are bad at things. I tend to avoid things I'm bad at. As I've gotten older, this has only become more prevalent—I see people that are really, really good at things, mostly because they've been doing them a long time, and rather than admit I don't have experience, or am scared to try, I simply avoid the activity altogether. How ridiculous is that? How much of life am I missing out on?

I know that it is uncomfortable to not be good at things. I know that I really enjoy being good at something, known for something, just to have that one unique way in which you are an authority (for me, I look at tennis. I love tennis, but if I really critique myself, I think a prominent reason for my playing tennis is that it was something I did that not very many other folks did, something that I could be the best at, and known for). I think the challenge I'm learning through my early time here at CHRPA is that presence is more important than competence. Even if we are terrible at something, incapable of helping out in any real way, our very presence can speak to a great deal. We grow through things that are uncomfortable and difficult.

I'm trying to grow. I recently started reading a new Paulo Coelho book (the author of the Alchemist) in a thrift store, and in the very first chapter the character stated that there is one moment in every day in which we can either choose to really live life to its fullest or simply live life. Sometimes we seize the opportunity and sometimes we watch it go by. The first step is recognizing the moment for what it is. The next step is jumping into those situations where we are struggle and embrace them as something new and life-giving. Honestly, I think that most of the time I miss those opportunities, every day.

No more. I want to be more willing to lose at games, to be incompetent with a new tool, to make an fool of myself in a unfamiliar social situation. And why? Because those are the situations in which I have the most to learn, and have the most room to grow. I only hope I have the courage to follow through.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Deep Roots and Thin Air

Deep roots
Deep deep roots
Reaching down
Taking hold

Ancient ties
keep us close
deep roots
deep deep roots

Different colors
skin tone smudges
that captures diversity

Languages older than our discovery of the land

Reaching down
Taking hold
This is what keeps us grounded
close to the Earth from which we came.
Deep roots.
Deep deep roots.

Thin Air

Instead of altitude sickness
instead of hallucinating
I feel stronger
think clearer
as I get higher.

I feel so impermanent
Yet invincible.

I could die any second
or I could live forever.

Take away moments like this
And I'd know something was missing
Those moments when

I could die any second
or I could live forever.

Deep roots was written at church last Sunday at Southside, which was a celebration of the Native American heritage of the congregation. Southside was originally started as a mission church, due to its proximity to the reservation on the south end of town. Sunday, church members with native origins stood up and introduced themselves and spoke of their genealogy, many of which are tied to the Tucson area for at least 4 or 5 generations. I was really struck by the rich history Southside had with the Native American population, but also by the pride and dignity with which the Native Americans spoke of their past.

Thin Air was written at the top of Mt. Wrightson, during a few moments when I managed to sneak away from the massive group of 14 and sit by myself. I don't know that the poem really captures those moments that I feel on top of mountains...that transcendent feeling of being so big and so small at the same time. But it tries.


Ok, so it's been a long time since I posted, and when you've waited this long, it's hard to pick back up on the posting. And, more to the point, I'm almost at a loss for where to update. Do I fill in my daily acitivities, or weekend fun? Or do I share my recent thoughts or writings?

I'll start with a few pictures from a hike we took a
few weeks ago to the top of Mt. Wrightson...the tallest mountain in the Tucson area! Exactly what my body and spirit needed. :)