Tuesday, October 21

a dangerous question

I don't usually post things here that are political, but this is a topic I wonder about from time to time and just read/heard some interesting perspectives on it the past few days.

From Wendell Berry (an amazing writer/thinker who was way before his time on sustainable agriculture and all related things):
Mexicans cross the border because our way of life is extravagant; because our way of life is extravagant, we have no place for them - or won't have for very long. A generous immigration policy would be contradicted by our fundamentally ungenerous way of life.
- "A Few Words in Favor of Edward Abbey," in the book What Are People For?

Just after I read this, I happened to hear the same line of thinking in this YouTube video. (I found the video after searching for something by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, who wrote a great book about working to erase the division between black and white churches that I just read.) The woman at the end of the panel describes America as hoarding all the resources in the world then drawing a line around them and not letting other people come in.

I realize that immigration is a touchy subject, but how do we reconcile what we are as America with how we're called to treat the poor, the aliens, the oppressed?

Monday, October 13

6 random things

I normally don't do things like this, but since I was a kid who always (well, almost always) followed the rules and my middle school English teacher tagged me to do this, I feel some sort of responsibility to do it. I am going to break the rules a little bit, though, and not tag anyone else.

1. I am not a vegetarian yet, but I am finding myself cooking more veggie meals and ordering the all veggie options from a menu if there's a choice. It usually sounds the yummiest.

2. I don't talk a lot, so sometimes people think I'm being judgmental and aloof when I really just don't have a lot to say.

3. I was called opinionated last week and it surprised me, but I guess I am getting more opinionated as I age. :)

4. Since I grew up in Texas, I should speak Spanish, but I don't. I took German in high school and college because I wanted to be different, but have forgotten all that. I can speak Korean conversationally and enough Chinese to take a cab and get what I need at the market.

5. I was a single issue voter for the past few elections, but now I've realized that even those single issues aren't as black and white as they seem.

6. I really want to live in a place that has four distinct seasons again. I miss cool and cold weather a lot.


People know me at the homeless shelter. Few know my name, but they smile when I come in. We shoot the breeze. Sometimes they get mad at me for following the rules and not checking mail after 4:00 or not being able to help them with what they need, but that's rare. One time a guy asked for the monthly schedule of programs and I didn't know where it was, so I told him that. He got a little angry, but then later he heard me tell someone else that I was a volunteer and he came up and apologized that he'd gotten mad.

Last week, a guy that I sometimes chat with came up and asked me why I kept coming. He's smiling and inquisitive and asked some great questions. I told him that I'm there to learn, that I want to be able to identify with people who are different than me. I said that the poor, middle class and rich keep to their own circles and we need to mix up those circles in order to be aware of the problems of the world and learn what we can do about those problems. I told him it made me sad to go into schools on the East side and see only black and hispanic kids.

We talked about the main problems of the homeless. He told me the main problem was drug addiction. Another guy came up and told us that 90% of the people on the streets are there because they want to be, and he was one of them. He was proud of that. The first guy told me that he had kids and an ex-wife and was just there at the shelter temporarily because of a bad decision.

I love that this guy came up to me and started asking questions. I think we can make progress - probably only to a certain extent, but still some kind of progress - by being curious about the lives of others and building relationships with people who are different from us.

I don't volunteer a lot of information except in response to questions. Too many of us don't step out of ourselves for long enough to ask the questions of others that show we're interested. We'll talk about ourselves, but we won't learn what we can from those who are different around us. Or maybe, to give us some credit, we're afraid of being too curious. I can tell you though, that I'm glad for guys like this who ask questions.