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Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

Just when I started questioning myself, wondering if my need to help change the world in a compassionate way was somehow wrong, not normal, misguided, whatever words people have used, someone I care about very much let me know my craziness has helped her and her husband communicate better. “Although I don’t always agree with what you say, I’ve found that instead of just watching TV, we are now able to talk about what we’ve seen.”  She added that they now even allow themselves to question some of their long-held ideas and beliefs and be a little more open about disagreements.

To me, that was worth all the self-questioning in the world.

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I just found this on Facebook and loved it so much I wanted to share it widely. I wonder how many of us see ourselves in the words? I sure do. Enjoy.

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A wonderful August 2nd to all of you as well as lots of ice and freezing temperatures to those of you in the scorching parts of the country. I wish I could ship tons of the stuff to you. It’s been hot and muggy here in San Diego but nothing like Oklahoma or New York. Please try to stay cool. It’s got to end sometime.

Today I got a kind of wake-up call about how high medical costs have risen lately. I haven’t had any kind of medical insurance since getting divorced in 2006 and am anxiously looking forward to Medicare (ala Secure Horizons) in December. I’ve been very healthy, only going to clinic doctors as needed and buying meds in Mexico. So, I just hadn’t noticed the costs, other than the out-of-reach cost of medical insurance. However, my left eye has been bothering me a lot for a week so I finally made an appointment this afternoon. Turns out I have a virus in my eye (had never heard of that) caused by the same virus that makes cold sores. The treatment is one drop of stuff nine times a day for a week and an ointment to make it feel better. All well and good—until the bill.

The doctor visit was $160, and my debit card groaned but spit it out into the machine. However, the tiny bottle of drops (generic) was $143! Ouch!!! That had to go on a credit card since I haven’t even paid this month’s bills yet. I sure do hope those drops do the trick. I was kind of expecting to pay $4 or so at Wal-Mart, too. And what world am I living in, I wonder?

I’m knocking on all the wood I can find right now, hoping that nothing else will happen until I can rely on the government a little in December. This experience gave me a down-to-earth idea of why so many people are struggling with healthcare issues and why I’m so adamant that the U.S. is so far behind other countries in assisting their people. It isn’t funny.

 

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I’ve now been living in East San Diego County for six months and it’s been okay so far. But, I can’t keep from comparing the area to the way it was when I grew up here so many years ago. Like most other big cities, it’s become too big with far too many people and few areas of actual quiet. Right now my jobs require a lot of driving from one area of the county to another. With the price of gas rising each day, now anywhere from $4.09 to $4.35 per gallon, I needed to make a decision. I could accept only those jobs within a small radius of my home, I could quit them completely, or I could find other transportation options.

I used to enjoy driving. However, I don’t like to drive here any longer. Using freeways, I am able to get just about anywhere, using surface roads to complete a trip. But, that convenience is marred by too darned many other vehicles going at too fast a speed. It’s marred by too many speed bumps, by too many dead ends, by too many roads that go nowhere, by too many “Right Turn Only” signs, by the need to make too many U-turns, by the need to shift gears in my pickup constantly on surface streets, by too-long waits at huge intersections, and especially by my impatience with all of these things.

Yesterday I discovered that I am old enough for a Senior Transit Pass, paying $18 a month instead of the normal $72 for unlimited rides on buses and trolleys. Considering that it now takes at least $50 to fill my gas tank, it’s a no-brainer. Yes, trips will take much longer. Yes, I’ll need to plan trips ahead of time. And yes, I’ll need to do a little more walking from stop to stop. But I also see it as an adventure, as a way to thumb my nose at oil companies, and as a way to do my small share to make this planet a little greener.

The adventure begins today with a very short walk down the hill to the bus stop, a bus ride to the El Cajon Transit Center,

  and a short walk from there to Parkway Plaza Shopping Center for a mystery shop.

Then it’s a walk back to the transit center and a trolley and bus ride into San Diego for another shop.

Finally, after a bus ride back to the trolley stop, it’s another trolley ride back to El Cajon

and a bus up to the mountain city of Alpine. That bus stops directly at my destination so that will be handy. From there, I can ride the bus back to where I began, walk up the hill, and I’m home. We’ll see how it goes.

While living in Portland, Oregon, I used to ride the MAX light rail everywhere, and buses where the MAX didn’t go. So, there’s really no reason not to get into that habit again. It might be interesting to keep track of how much gas I DON’T use this coming month.

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This story about a small Texas college converting their football field to an organic farm is probably one of the best things I’ve read in quite a while. I especially enjoyed reading about students’ experiences eating carrots right out of the ground for the very first time, without even any ranch dressing to cover up the taste. There is hope.

 

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 Since pretty much giving up the nomadic RV life several months ago and returning to San Diego to live, I’ve become more and more involved in homeless advocacy and assistance projects. At a training meeting with other volunteers for the Point-In-Time Count nationwide count of the homeless this week, I began wondering why I’m so passionate about these activities and decided to try to find a beginning point, something that got me started. However, my memory is a little fuzzy about many years ago, most likely when Reagan was president, so I won’t use that as a starting point. But, that time is indeed a beginning.

While going to seminary in Seattle from 1999 to 2003, I began noticing more and more people on street corners and freeway on and off ramps, holding signs offering to work for food or requesting money. In a field work class, one of my classmates, a rather quiet, unassuming young man, spent much time walking around downtown Seattle, stopping to talk with homeless individuals. I was impressed that he could do that. It tugged at me in ways almost nothing else had for a long time. However, at the time I was not prepared to do it myself.

After graduation, I returned to San Diego to do a year-long CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) residency with the Center for Urban Ministry, hoping to be assigned an internship with one of the homeless shelters downtown. At that time, San Diego County had just experienced several of the worst wildfires in history. Seventeen people had died, and many, many were left with no place to live. The head of the CPE program asked if I would be interested in being a chaplain-intern with those fire survivors, so I did. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I had ever done. My office was my small Nissan Sentra and my cell phone. I visited people wherever they were; in tiny motor homes, in tents, in half-burned buildings, in motels, in the homes or relatives or friends. I tried to give them hope. Possibly I succeeded. Little did I realize at the time that I would soon be in a similar situation.

Because of a well-paid job that just didn’t work out, I found myself without enough money to pay rent on the rather-overpriced apartments in the county. It wasn’t as serious as it could have been as I could have possibly lived with a relative or even returned to Portland. However, I was newly divorced and really needed to “stand on my own two feet.” So, I bought a very small motor home, 23-feet, traded the Sentra for a Ford pickup I could tow behind the RV, sold or gave away almost everything I owned, joined workamper.com, and found a job in Kanab, Utah, working as a breakfast buffet server for Parry Lodge. It was my first workamping job, one that provided not only an RV site, but also full hookups of water, electricity, and sewer, as well as pay for all hours worked. But, I was technically homeless, though not in an ordinary sense.

 Living in that very small space of one room with no separate bedroom, helped me understand a little better how the people I had tried to help in San Diego after the fires might have felt. Some of them had the same size motorhomes for their families of two or more people. I had a hard enough time taking what one person called “hokey-pokey showers,” you know, “put your right foot in, put your right foot out…” I couldn’t imagine two, three, or more family members doing it.

I was a full-time workamper for four years, working at various places during spring, summer, and fall. However, winters were difficult as there were very few jobs. Most workamping jobs were seasonal. So, I struggled to find places to live during the winter without having to pay an outrageous amount for space rent. Sometimes I parked in casino and Walmart parking lots for several nights. I volunteered one or more days a week at the Desert View Tower overlooking the desert in return for a spot to park that included electricity, water, and a fantastic view. Although not living on the street or in a shelter, I was technically homeless.

However, it was time to find a more permanent place so I returned to San Diego to live with my mother. It is working out well for both of us.

Two months ago I saw a request for volunteers for “Homeless Connect,” a one-day event downtown that provided resources for the homeless population of the county; clothing, medical and dental attention, food, pet care, legal advice, spiritual assistance, haircuts, and many more. I worked as an escort, helping a 60-something woman find her way around the large room to get the services she needed. We talked a lot and got well-acquainted. Yes, I most likely knew in my mind that homeless individuals were people just like you and me, but it never really sank in until then.

I talked with representatives of some of the many advocacy and aid groups in the county and learned about the Point-In-Time Count (PITC) this coming weekend. It is a national program that counts the homeless population each year at the same time in all areas. The tallies are entered into a large database and used to help get more funding for homeless work. So I will be among more than 550 other volunteers getting out there very early Friday morning, counting homeless individuals.

What comes next? I have no idea. However, I am making lots of connections with groups in the area such as the Interfaith Shelter Network, and will be doing a little volunteer work with them through my Unitarian Universalist church in the next few months.

Yes, I am passionate about this work and hopefully compassionate towards the many homeless people in this county. There are too many. And, the economic and unemployment situation now just makes everything worse. We all need one another, regardless of political or religious beliefs, and I really hope I’m doing my part to at least help with some basic needs. It’s the least I can do.

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I think it’s amazing what the change of one letter can do sometimes.

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