Tuesday, August 30, 2011

(do) We hold these truths to be self-evident...?

The Founding Fathers of America were an interesting lot. These upper class, white, (mostly) land-holding gentlemen held beliefs that were used as the bedrock for our political and moral system. They wrote documents and sparked revolution and created an environment that roused other (mostly not upper class) Americans to take up arms and rebel against the dominant world power at that time.

But, alas... this is neither a history lesson nor a political endorsement. Rather, I was struck by something written in The Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson uses the phrase, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Self-evidence is a marvelous thing because it eliminates outside mitigating factors that might force us to live in someone else's reality.It is up to the individual to decide what is important.

If an idea or belief is self-evident, then it should be easy enough to demonstrate; It should be obvious. All men are created equal...

...unless they make minimum wage
...or they are a different religion.

...if they have a college degree
...or a boat on the lake.

...unless they don't have a fixed address
...or eat their meals at a shelter.

...if we belong to the same social circles
...or we feel comfortable around one another.

Do we really believe this... that all people are created equal? Or is it merely a quaint patriotic cloak we wrap ourselves in as we look down on others who are not us? Our treatment of one another is (evidently) what helps define who we are. The next time we decide that we are 'proud to be an American,' maybe we can take a minute to reflect on what this could mean. That the implications of our beliefs have long-lasting effects on ourselves and those we rub shoulders with every day. True patriotism demands an equality based on the value of each person.

Montanans are patriotic people and proper patriotism is something to be applauded.

...self-evidently speaking, that is.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My apologies to Kiefer Suntherland...

The following takes place between 12am and 11pm. *Terry's name has been changed to conceal an identity.

Me: Sleeping.
Terry: Sleeping.

Me: Sleeping.
Terry: Sleeping.

Me: Sleeping.
Terry: Sleeping.

Me: Sleeping.
Terry: Sleeping.

Me: Wake up around 4:45 to begin my day; put on some coffee and steal a glance at the news so I can solve all life's problems. Begin to shake the cobwebs from my head.
Terry: Sleeping.

Me: Slug down some more coffee and look through my pantry before deciding there is nothing that I want to eat. Check on my sleeping children and set the lawn sprinkler before I leave for work.
Terry: Wake up and wait for the dining room to open so he can get some coffee. Try to be as quiet as possible as not to wake up roommates.

Me: Arrive at Samaritan House and check on the previous days activities. Sort through the pantry and refrigerators to see what is available to serve the residents for breakfast. Do my best Gordon Ramsay impression before deciding on donated precooked breakfast sandwiches and pancakes.
Terry: Take a shower in the communal bathroom and then go outside to get some fresh air while waiting for breakfast. Finally grab some coffee.

Me: Serve breakfast and scurry around getting the residents the supplies they need to do their respective chores.
Terry: Eat breakfast and head back outside talk to other residents. Make a game plan for the rest of the day.

Me: Settle into my office and answer emails and other responses to various projects. Answer the odd or occasional question from anyone who knocks on my door.
Terry: Sweep and mop the hallway of the shelter. Go back to the room and rummage through belongings to find some papers that needed to be filled out. Try to figure out how to dress for the day. It looks like rain.

Me: Return phone calls to people and businesses who have been partnering with us. Force myself to drink some water to balance out the caffeine intake. Perform room inspections.
Terry: Leave the shelter and try to fill the day until residents can return to Samaritan House at 4 pm. Walk to the job service to turn in some forms.

Me: Staff meeting to discuss policy rewrites.
Terry: Still at job service office.

Me: Check back with the kitchen to see what is available to serve the Veterans lunch. The leftovers from the previous evening's dinner looks promising. Get everything prepped and into the oven. Sort through some donated items and put them away.
Terry: Walk to the park and wait for lunch.

Me: Serve lunch and clean up. Sulk back into the office knowing I only have 2 more hours of work left. Make a trip to the food bank to drop off some items and pick up some donated food.
Terry: Walk to an organization that serves free lunch. Eat and then walk back to the park.

Me: Meet with some potential volunteers who are considering assisting us by cooking and serving dinner.
Terry: Walk to the library to get out of the rain. Read some books on world history. Check the internet.

Me: Log out at work and depart for home. Call my folks back on the east coast.
Terry: Still at the library. Email family who live out of state. Head to the laundromat to wash some clothes.

Me: Pick the kids up from school and help them with homework. Play with them for a while until my wife gets home from her job.
Terry: Finish washing clothes and go to the store to pick up a few things. Begin the journey back to Samaritan House, trying not to drop the bags.

Me: Hang out with my family and hear how my wife's day went. Run to the post office to check the mail and then hit the grocery store to pick up some food. Arrive home and fire up the grill.
Terry: Go back to the room and try to find a place to put the items purchased at the store. Read a book.

Me: Eat dinner and compulsively switch back and forth between Sportscenter, Food Network, and CNN.
Terry: Sort through some employment opportunities and then walk a few blocks to the Samaritan House Administrative Center for dinner.

Me: Go to Target. Go to Shopko. Go to Starbucks. Go Home.
Terry: Eat dinner. Drink coffee. Walk back to the room.

Me: Read for a while and then put on a movie. Begin getting the kids cleaned up.
Terry: Read for a while and work on a crossword puzzle.

Me: Some friends come over to visit. Put the kids to bed.
Terry: Smoke break outside and sit on the bench. Begin to think about the next day.

Me: Take a shower and do some last minute things around the house.
Terry: Read. One final break outside before having to check in before the stroke of 10.

Me: Watch the news and go to bed.
Terry: Go to bed.

Me: Sleeping.
Terry: In bed but wide awake.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


"There is a time for departure even when there's no certain place to go."
- Tennessee Williams.

Time. It's an idea or concept that many people take for granted or ignore until they find themselves running out of it. There are only so many hours in a day and our schedules are often so packed that we never seem to find a spare minute. How we construct our days are, largely, our own doing. We might complain about the job we have or the events dictating our existence, but many people are products of an environment in which they have some semblance of control.

It's rare to hear a person lament the overabundance of time on their hands.

This is not a tangible reality for a lot of people so the idea of 'killing time' loses meaning. As a rigid schedule marches an individual through the day, a byproduct emerges from the chaos of such a frenzied routine: purpose. The fact that a person is so busy implies there is an element of purpose to their life that is driving them to be that busy in the first place. When an individual can assign meaning to their life, that life becomes not only tolerable, but an air of excitement and hope seeps in.

But what happens when a person is faced with countless hours and not much to do? Being left alone with nothing more than your thoughts and reflections can cage a person and remind them that life is not turning out the way they imagined. Not having a strict schedule allows the mind to wander to places that can produce joy and madness in a single moment.

My name is Curt and I'm the new guy at Samaritan house. My next post will be an hourly comparison between myself and a resident at Samaritan House. Draw from this what you will. How does your day parallel the life of the homeless? I am not asking you to walk a mile in another person's shoes; instead just imagine a different day.