Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The importance of a hanger.

I have grown too reliant on the marvels and convenience of modern technology. We all have our precious items we covet and that help us make it through the day. Those particular gadgets and thing-a-ma-jigs that leave us wondering how people ever coped before such a thing ever existed. Inventive contraptions like wi-fi and voicemail and flux capacitors (think hard about that one) and clothes hangers.

Yep. You heard me correctly... clothes hangers.

How, you might ask, could I classify a hanger as one of the best inventions of our time? To be fair I must concede that it doesn't beep or glow. You cannot log-on to it or even ask it for directions. No one will ever confuse this item with something that might need to be locked up for safety reasons. So, what is so great about a clothes hanger?

It keeps things off the floor. Most of us have floors that we wouldn't be overly alarmed if something fell onto them. Sure, we would feign embarrassment at the state of our carpets but, by and large, they rarely look like a street in Calcutta. If something ends up on the ground life does not grind to a halt until said item is picked up. We can cope.

But, what if your floor is actually pretty dirty. You might be a neat and tidy person but perhaps one of the other 6 people living in the same room do not share your heightened sense of cleanliness. The individual to the left of you has tracked in mud and the one on the right spilled coffee and hasn't bothered to clean it up. Not a bad time to have a hanger laying around.

This dilemma might be fiction for a large portion of us, but for our residents it is a reality. We take so much for granted and often never give things in our daily routine a second thought because we have become accustomed to living at a certain standard that eludes many people in Kalispell.

We have become pampered by hangers.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I'll be home(less) for Christmas

Cue Perry and Bing because the holidays are rapidly approaching.

It seems we just turned the corner on Thanksgiving and now Christmas is staring us directly in the snow-blown face. It is not uncommon to be overwhelmed this time of year. Familial obligations creep out of the woodwork and funny-looking Christmas cards from once-removed fourth cousins begin flooding our mailboxes. I won’t even mention the fruitcake. There are things to purchase and people to visit and caloric calamities to ingest... everything swirling around in a vortex of holiday busyness that can be stressful and tense.

But (there always seems to be ‘but’)… what if your holiday season was hardly overwhelming at all? What if you could erase the chaos from your schedule and spend the holidays alone? At some point a few of us migght have whispered to ourselves about the benefits of being on a deserted island as soon as tghe claendar flips over to December. Christmas can be such a bother.

Many people complain about being overextended during this time of year. However, the fact that this occurs is a good indicator that there are people in our lives to add to the holiday shuffle we routinely perform. Chances are, a lot of these people care about us and (in spite of the insanity) are positive contributors even during our sense of being overwhelming. The majority of our Samaritan House residents are not overwhelmed. They live out the theoretical quiet Christmas so many others long for. Of course, there is always a catch when the hypothetical chokes on reality.

Homelessness has many attachments that can physically hinder a person from enjoying most of the amenities non-homeless people have. Reliable shelter, steady employment, regular access to food, and education are things many of us do not think about on a regular basis. Some of these options are not available to the homeless, hence their daily lives can be underwhelming in comparison to people who are not homeless.

The joys of an underwhelming holiday season for the homeless: not having to mix and mingle at endless office parties and family get-togethers. No sense of Christmas claustrophobia caused by shopping for others at any one of a thousand stores of their choosing. Avoiding the hassle of cutting down a tree to wrestle with in the living room. How great to not have to listen to endless holiday hits on XM radio. The solitude of having no one drop by to pay you a visit unexpectedly.

This is what we dream of, right?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

I’m usually left alone with my thoughts as I drive to work in the mornings. It’s still relatively early so traffic is scarce and the journey is fraught with all the danger driving in a straight line can muster; which is to say not much. Today, however, I had some accompaniment as I meandered into town. My normally peaceful jaunt was interrupted by a massive mobilized entourage of vehicles streaming toward Kalispell in search of the perfect bargain. Black Friday.

This term was coined in Philadelphia in 1966 but didn’t really gain steam as a national (anti)phenomenon until 1975. The origins for the name of this day are debated. One theory addresses the commercial aspect of this phrase and the idea that most companies make a significant profit (in the black) on this sacred day of capitalistic consumerism. Another suggestion is that the streets and roads are so crowded that everything morphs into a huge shadow. I always thought Black Friday should simply be a tribute to Billy Dee Williams, but I seem to be alone on this.

Whatever the true genesis for Black Friday, it typically elicits polarizing responses: some people avoid it like the (black) plague, while others set their alarm clocks for the Monday before everything begins so they can be the first in line to pacify their growing wish lists. I even heard that some organizations and businesses are opening their doors at 4am to provide child care so parents can drop of the kiddies and enter, once again, into the fray. My initial thought was… who does this? Who drops off their own children in the middle of the night so they can join the parking lot mosh pits of the Valley’s numerous stores?

I’ll tell you who.

Not everyone is blessed to have grandparents or a caring spouse to watch their kids. Sometimes the only option for a single parent is to rely on these types of programs because this is, literally, one of the only times they can find a babysitter. Fighting the crowds and elbowing past the ill-fated store greeters is a challenge for some. There is an adrenaline rush and, while the reduced prices are nice, there will be plenty of days left to shop on days without specific colors attached to them. Other people venture out because this is the only time they can procure an item that usually would be way out of their price range. They bend over backwards and jump through whatever hoops are present just to feel normal. It’s both sad and scary that this is becoming the new normal.

My hat is off to all of you who are braving the roads, weather, and other shoppers. While you’re out there, though, remember that some people need this day much more than others.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is an interesting day.

Some people like to focus on the historical and politicall ramifications. Others enjoy a break from their daily schedules to go hunting or legally play hooky from class. Football, turkey, and candied yams take center stage right before a prolonged nap from an imagined tryptophan overindulgence. (PS... turkey doesn't really make you sleepy).

Whatever your perspective is regarding November's final Thursday, looking back and taking some time to reflect on what you are thankful for is a very cathartic exercise that is good for the soul. It reminds us that life is fluid and even if times are difficult, there is no reason to believe that things can't improve. It's easy to focus on the negative, and at times life genuinely feels overwhelming. Like we can't keep up.

But stop. Take a breath.

Rekindle those thoughts and think back to something good that has happened. Appreciate that beauty of the moment in the midst of the chaos. Remember what it was like to smile and then recall while you smiled in the first place. I'm not asking you to dabble in some psychoanalytical exercise or jump through some psychological hoop. I am not painting the world with rose-colored glasses. I know there is pain and madness and adult on-set diabetes and the New York Yankees...

There is also charity and redemption. Sunlight and snowmen. For at least one day a year let us call to mind the things and people that warm our spirits and induce butterflies in our stomachs. Make a concerted effort to be thankful for what has happened in your life and also in the difference you have made in the lives of others. We can go back to being cynics on Friday.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Who Helps Whom?

Why do we do nice things?

There are probably thousands of answers to this question and I had a great little article all ready to go until reality interrupted the theoretical universe I call home. I was literally sitting at my desk punching the keystrokes that composed my opening sentence when one of our residents stuck his head in my office (man, I really need to keep that door closed) and asked if I could give him a hand with something.

Sure, I thought. He probably needed something from the supply closet or maybe the kitchen was out of coffee. I could trouble myself to pause my very important blog submission and solve this crisis. I donned my martyr robe and asked him what he needed. My face had just the right mix of empathy and concern and I even leaned back in my chair to strike a 'how can I help you?' pose. His truck was stalled in our parking lot and he needed some guys to help push it so he could try and jump start it.

Ummm. I'm the Associate Director. I don't really do things like that. I don't mind fetching some paper towels once in a while or maybe making a few photocopies every now and then, but pulling some Dukes of Hazard stunt at 6:30 in the morning in 30 degree weather is not really in my job description.

Anyway... I am pretty wrapped up in writing this awesome article about the importance of helping people.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

9 degrees

Driving into work this morning I was already on my third cup of coffee when I blearily noticed the temperature screaming at me from one of the many neon signs dotting Highway 93.

5:37 am (blink, blink)... 9 degrees (blink, blink).

I heard a joke once. "How many idealists does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is none because an idealist has never changed anything; they just romanticize the problem."

Homelessness is an epidemic but what are some tangible solutions to addressing it? Noble intentions and heart moving rhetoric are wonderful things but they should not be viewed as anything but a means to an end. I believe many people want to help but sometimes this problem seems so overwhelming that it paralyzes those who could provide realistic solutions to homelessness. For those interested, don't try to change this light bulb all at once. Start small and know that any contributions are appreciated and part of a remedy to the greater illness.

Donations are very helpful. Warm clothing for this time of year is especially practical and will be a blessing. Food is another item that always makes a difference. Whether it is a home cooked meal or a bag of groceries, no contribution is too small. Another idea is to 'adopt' a family or individual. Samaritan House is full of residents that can use various items. Call us if you are interested, at 257-5801.

We are sincerely thankful for your help because we all understand that good intentions aside, 9 degrees is not a theoretical state. It is real and it is now and there are people outside living in it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Haps.

So... it's been a while since any real information has been passed on to you, our faithful and loyal readers. There are always things happening around Samaritan House and the past few weeks have been no different.

As of this morning, we still have 6 tickets left for our raffle drawing the day after Thanksgiving. Each ticket is $100 but the overall grand prize is $2000, followed by $1000, there are also $200 and $100 prizes.

As the weather begins to change and grow colder, many of you have been kind enough to call and inquire about possibly 'adopting' a family or individual for the holidays. For more information on what our residents' needs are, please call Curt, who is heading coordinating these efforts. He can be reached from 6am-2pm, Monday through Friday at 257-5801.

Our Fall newsletter should be arriving soon, so please keep your eyes open for it. We will post some more updates soon. Have a great day and keep warm!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

When you hear the word______

Words conjure images that are often built upon stereotypes. Sometimes we find that its easier to label someone than deal with the reality that they are an individual with a past, present, and future.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word "homeless?" Here is the final segment of our four-part interview that asks some people this very question.

What does homelessness look like?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Someone like me?

Did you know that 12% of the total population of Montana is homeless? Every person has a story and many people's journeys might surprise you.

Have you ever been homeless?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Who are the homeless?

Please watch the second part of our interview with various people around the valley and their thoughts on the causes of homelessness.

Why be homeless?