Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
I had participated in the 30 Hour Famine a couple years prior to my senior year, but it was my senior year that we watched a video showing human aid workers delivering needed food, water, and medical supplies to those in desperate need. I watched that video, and something clicked. At that moment, spending a life working to alleviate the poverty of those in need, a life working to change the systems that put people in those situations, seemed the most fulfilling and meaningful life.
I tried to put that mentality to work in college, volunteering in a variety of capacities until my sophomore year I was able to join a coalition of 9 Yamhill County churches that yearly drive down to the Tijuana area of Mexico to build homes with Amor Ministries. I learned a lot about myself on that trip—I had the unique opportunity to join with 70 people I barely knew, and could redefine and reinvent myself. I worked so hard on that trip, and tried so hard to keep a positive attitude, that it became reality. More importantly, I saw poverty face to face for the first time, the kind of poverty that is around every corner in the U.S., but is pushed out of sight and out of mind by our culture.
I think when one sees that poverty, confronts that poverty face to face, with real people and real stories, one simply cannot help but act. There is no other option. For me, it is both a moral obligation and a obligation of faith. One thing is certain though: my life cannot look the same as it did with the knowledge that there are people who are suffering, who are not given the same opportunities and resources as I was. It is now about justice.
Over the past year I have worked as a full-time volunteer through the Presbyterian Church USA. My horizons keep expanding, the world keeps growing bigger, the problems more complex. And my sense of justice, my internal demand for equality, only continues to expand. Perhaps it is a blessing, perhaps a curse. Regardless, it is my motivation.
Mother Theresa said, “You can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Despite my awareness of the magnitude and gravity of the problems that surround us, I am desperately trying to live in that belief. I cannot change things by myself, but I can never underestimate the power one person can have on another person's life.
I had the opportunity the first weekend of May to be a part of a Borderlinks delegation, a participant on the trips that my roommates Ali and Stevie routinely lead as part of their jobs here in Tucson. Borderlinks strives to educate about the border through experience and conversation, relying on the participant to push themselves, to ask questions, to learn through the experience. I want to share a few of my writings from the weekend.
One of those most powerful experiences was watching Operation Streamline, a required courtroom appearance for migrants picked up by border patrol to plead guilty to the misdemeanor of "crossing the border without going through a legal entry point." If migrants believe they have an actual case for an immigration judge, they will go through a different court system. But for these individuals, about 75 the day we were there, there is only one answer to all the questions asked: "Si. Yes."
They each wore chains around their wrists and their ankles, with an additional chain holding those together. Every movement was marked with the sound of bondage. An as they were called up in groups of 6 to plead guilty, swept through the legal system in a solid hour and a half, I have to ask....is this the justice?
on all sides
we look at them
pity in our eyes
but that's still the power card
just another part of the lie
they look at us
lost, alone, abandoned....defeated.
Friends or foes?
Every face in America
must seem hard and bitter.
People in power mill around
flaunting the fact that they aren't
seated, cuffed in two places,
unable to move without the
jingling of chains haunting every movement
what drove them to try
such a dangerous, difficult, STUPID task?
they look healthy, capable
just like me
their eyes tell their stories
some sad, humiliated, defeated
others defiant, proud
some even twinkle
and for those
I have hope.
Do they really know what is going on?
Is the the idea of justice they are getting?
Maybe they'll find out Arizona isn't all that great anyways
now that they're here
but that is desperation for you
you have to act
without thought or regard for what could happen
I feel so much anger
but I'm not sure at who
is it purposeful?
Does it help?
Does it DO anything?
No. Definitely not.
But this is an outrage.
I want to stand up and yell it!
If everyone could see this
if people in the States could SEE this
it couldn't stand....could it?
We aren't that inhuman, are we?
It reminds me of Bradley Manning
even an American citizen and soldier can't get justice
and we are still unwilling to act.
And that is apathy. Insulation.
This will be our downfall.
The emptiness grows
that knot in my stomach that started when I walked in and
saw the men and women on "trial"
And as each person leaves the courtroom, one less person
here in this experience with me, the
the loneliness grows
as this cavernous courtroom becomes larger and
more desolate, lacking the warmth of any humanity
my emptiness grows
my aching accelerates
my heavy heart
feels like it just might
fall out of me.
We lose in this scenario too.
We leave empty.
And that is what is bothering me the most about all this. We're losing a war against ourselves. Our own fears, our insecurities. We feel entitled. Entitlement breeds laziness, laziness breeds ignorance. And sadly, that is reality for many in the border region. There is no reason to understand the situation of someone that has a different color skin or speaks a different language. We're scared to try. Because when we do, we no longer have the luxury of framing the situation as "us vs. them." They are us. And we are them.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
I spent a little time talking with a good man by the road today
He's 43 looks 65 but he's got a lot to say
He says to me "son listen up right quick we don't have much time
The good Lord gives and he takes away but things have turned out fine
I ran away at the age of 18 learned the ropes from a wine-o others took to be mean
I pick up cans and eat from the trash I've had gangs in LA kick my ass
But Luke I tell you theres nothing that I need the Lord provides and takes care of me
But do one thing if you would my brother
Just pray for me
Pray for me.
Pray for me."
I spent a little time talking with a good man by the road today.
I sat there in my slacks and tie and I listened to what he had to say.
He tells me of the time he was making big cash but the roof caved in
I took my eyes off the Lord he tells me and he turns to me with a grin
"I tell you son you gotta have big faith the Lord will smile and show his face
I trust people Luke and it can turn out bad but Luke I'll tell you bout the times I've had
I've had a court date for 20 years but I've never shown up and I stopped drinking beers
I choose this lifestyle is that so wrong? Me and "real life" just never got along..."
I said "Damn..Wayne. I agree."
He raises an eyebrow and he turns to me.
Before he said anything a car drove past...they waved for Wayne and he hopped up to greet them.
They gave him a flannel to help keep warm...and he gave it to me. Instantaneously.
Without question. Or recognition. Wayne gave it to me.
I sat there, speechless for a couple long moments.
I said thank you Wayne for thinking of me.
He smiles, says “I got my coveralls bro but you don't got nothing!”
As I got up to leave I asked him one more time "Wayne how can I help I feel I've wasted your time!"
And he thanks me then for stopping by
and I gave him my number as we said goodbye
God will take care of me he said he's always given me a place to lay my head
So go on home and don't you worry but Luke please
Pray for me.
Pray for me.
Pray for me.
I spent some time with a wise friend on the road today.
He's a child of God and he preached a sermon worthy of Easter Sunday.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Daniel and I were sent out to a water line the other day. On the way, Daniel told me how when he and Dan Wilhelm had been at this job before to assess what we needed to do, the homeowners had bought them lunch. I was stoked. It's one thing for a client to bring a glass of water, soda, coffee, or something like that, but I had yet to be fed on the job by a client.
Daniel and I showed up at the house and began working, mostly communicating with our client through his nephew, who came with his wife and daughter solely to help translate what we needed to do, or what they could help with. About 5 minutes after starting, Daniel and I were each given a 32 oz bottle of deliciously cold Evian water. "I have water!" I said, gesturing towards the truck. "Maybe later!" But they insisted, telling me that this water was cold, it was much better.
So we worked, digging, preparing our line, until half an hour later, 2 more bottles of water were produced. I looked at the first bottle they'd given me, barely half empty, and tried to tell them again, "I have water!" But once again, they stressed the need for a new, colder, bottle.
You get the idea. By lunchtime we each had 3 large cold bottles of water in our possession. I have never been so hydrated. It was so, so lovely. And then they brought us lunch. Sonic, no less. I've been trying to cut down on the meat that I eat (which is rare at my house anyway), but I knew that the gesture on their part was one that could not be turned down. So Daniel and I sat there and munched on our Sonic burgers, tater tots, and large Cokes. Our clients ate their own, making sure we were well supplied with straws, napkins...anything our hearts could ask for.
And the day continued, our clients continually wanting to help us, give us water, thank us for the work we were doing. At one point they brought out new bottles of water, and after seeing Daniel and I both grab for the one with a big chunk of ice in it, they started putting the water bottles in the freezer and bringing us half-frozen ones! They were in the way trying to help us move things, watching raptly as we soldered the final pieces into place. I have yet to interact so heavily with a client throughout the day in such a positive way.
And as we were gathering up our tools, preparing to leave, our client came out, this little old lady who spoke very little English, to hand us each an envelope, and to hand the both of us a bag. The bag was for the two of us, she said, and each of us had an envelope for ONLY ourselves.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Green, green, green,
it calls to me
a bee to honey
the wealthy to money.
License plates constantly excited me
Look! Another one!
Wait. They're all Oregon plates.
The rain on my face
biking as fast as I could
feeling the cold darts
on my skin
Gave me life.
Sunlight and water,
a plant needs both to grow.
2 weeks ago we went to the desert for a solitary retreat. Now I know that some people might be surprised if I were to say how excited I was, knowing my social tendencies, but I was stoked for this opportunity. For at least 2 or 3 years while I was making new years resolutions (it hasn't happened for a couple) I planned on taking a 2-3 day camping trip by myself. In my mind, this solitary retreat was a long time coming. However, what I found was that I didn't respond the way I thought I would. I was not happy. I was not relaxed. I was stressed out, mostly by creations of my own mind. I had no agenda, nothing to accomplish, nothing to fear, yet I struggled. It was really, really hard. I guess we always have room to push ourselves, room to learn something we didn't know....room to still grow.
So I left on a Friday morning and returned on Sunday morning, with the two days in between spent...worrying. I never entered a state of peace, of letting myself slow down to really just “be.” Whether or not my fears or worries were rational, they refused to leave.
This is a poem I wrote early on Thursday afternoon, during a two-hour “test” solitary time.
Don't go any further.
And my mind filled in the blanks.
Snakes. Slips. Spiders.
Fears filled my heart.
And I almost stopped.
Gave in as courage gave out.
But I paused.
Took a breath.
Blocked out the fears that bound me.
And as I climbed higher
into clearer air and clearer thoughts
My demons are not extraordinary
They are the doubts inside of me.
Now, all of that being said, having recognized that my fears were simply products of my own creation, you would have thought I could have overcome them alone in the desert. But I didn't. There was always something else to do. Some scenario to create. What should I do in the case of?...
I'm restless already
I've read, I've written
I've read, I've written
I talked aloud without even thinking about it.
I was going to try not to do that.
What I haven't done yet is relax.
Don't nap, what if you sleep through dinner and can't sleep at night?
How can I set up camp to be as safe as possible?
Set ground cloth.
Pull out tent.
Reset ground cloth.
Set up tent.
Walk to the highest point one way.
Walk to the high point the other way.
Smack at all the bees and flies cruising around.
I need to slow down and be silent.
Find some silence.
Be still and listen.
Even lacking a plan, I created one. I planned my days around meals because I didn't know what else to do. That was the one way to divide that hours and hours that lay between me and...freedom. Freedom from this self-imposed kingdom of worry.
Just as the sun was setting Friday night, I experienced, briefly, peace.
I feel so blessed that the bird lives above me.
I just felt my first moment of rest.
Watching him fly laps over me
80, 100 times, back and forth
small wings flapping furiously
deftly darting back and forth, back and forth
the wings stop for a just a moment as he banks to turn around
you have to be quick or you'd miss it
the last glimpses of light
couldn't be spent better.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
They say compassion is being able to put yourself in another's shoes.
But to be honest is that really news?
I'd like to think if we were each given the chance
we wouldn't choose to turn our backs on our neighbor
to refuse them a favor
to neglect to see things from their point of view
But when I didn't have water at my house...
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I found out about the shootings via a text message from one of my roommates as I was on my way out for a hike. The details came intermittently through the morning as we came in to and left service on the hike, giving us a decent idea of what had happened, although no one knew many details at that time. I got back that afternoon and spent most of the rest of the evening reading reports, recaps, and responses to the shootings.
While I felt an incredible sense of loss at the senseless deaths of innocent people, I had no personal connection. I've only been in Tucson 4 months. But as Saturday evening progressed into Sunday, my connectedness got closer. Jacob and Brandon run w/ the father of Gabe Zimmerman. A couple in Brandon's community are very close with the family of Ron Barber. And when I went to church Sunday morning at Southside Presbyterian, I met with many people directly in relationship w/ those involved in the shooting. Even though just Saturday night I felt insulated and unable to connect with the tragedy in my community, I was quickly reminded how interconnected we all are.
And Sunday mornings children's time at church was the gut check for me. And really, should be for all of us. For when the pastor asked for the prayers of the children, the children spoke for little Christina Green, age 9, who was killed. And they prayed for Congresswoman Giffords. And they prayed for the families of all those who had been shot. And then one little girl said "We should pray for the man with the gun, because he was lonely and didn't have any friends."
The church was silent. So many adults who preach peace hadn't been feeling very peaceful in their hearts. I was one of them. But maybe when Jesus said we must be like children to enter the kingdom of heaven this is what he was talking about. Instead of drawing a line between us and someone who had committed a heinous atrocity, instead of trying to call attention to how different he is from all of us, the little girl identified with the part of him that is real and human. And I think that's what Jesus would do too.
Tonight I was part of a bike ride/vigil that went down to the University Medical Center where Congresswoman Giffords is being cared for. The hundred or so bikers I was with slowly made our way down to the vigil, and found at least 200 people already there, gathered in a grassy knoll covered in candles, notes, signs, balloons, and flowers. As I stood there with my candle, I looked at the faces around me. Even when we don't feel it, we are connected. Every person there probably had their own reasons for coming, but they were there...and so was I. Whether I even know it or realize it...I'm a part of things down here in Tucson now.
Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers in this difficult time. We may be in the darkness of the night...but I have hope and faith that daylight is coming, and the dawn will break through.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Going home to Baker City for Christmas was absolutely wonderful. I have never, ever, even in my time at Linfield, or last fall with Jed, been so desperately happy to drive down Campbell street and turn left on Grove to go home. Perhaps it's some growing pains being away from home--really away from home, on my own adventure, in my own place. Perhaps I'm still adapting to that. I don't know. I just know that going home...which, as much as I like Baker, I'm pretty sure is only part of the solution. I'm pretty sure my home is wherever my parents and brother are present.
Now that might sound like a corny, or maybe even a bit childish, thing for a 23 year old living 4 states away from his parents to say. But they've been talking about retiring, and it's made me think a lot about how my "breaks," my Christmases and whenever else I get off from work for the rest of my life, look if my parents aren't in Baker. I can relax where my parents are. I am taken care of. And I realize at some point I won't be going where my parents are for the major holidays, but for me....well...that's what the holidays are for. Christmas day itself this year was not so great a distinction for me as Christmas Eve, when I got home and saw my family.
Further adding to my sense of fulfillment and completion while home was the presence of my girlfriend Kady, who came to Baker on the 26th and stayed until I left. One more precious piece of my world was present. Suddenly, instead of feeling spread thin between Tucson, Baker City, and McMinnville, I felt very whole and happy with so many people I love around me in Baker City.
I was also able to speak at church the Sunday I was home, which was incredible to touch base w/ the people that have been doing so much to support me while I've been in Tucson. I always feel so loved and joyful when I'm a part of that community. My energy grows. I feel empowered. I feel special. It's an unbelievable feeling to feel as special as I do among the members of that congregation.
Being home is very little about a place. Being home is very, very much about the people. People make a home. I'm so thankful that while my physical location seems to be in a constant state of variation and change, I have people I can call home.