Tuesday, December 31, 2013

No Resolutions for 2014

Born in 1975, I am a child of the 90s.

In kindergarten I remember the Challenger exploding and I was in 9th grade when Mr. Gorbachev finally 'tore down that wall.' In the 5th grade I journeyed Back To The Future and the events of 9/11 are just as seared into my memory as the Cuban Missle Crisis was for my parents. I missed out on Boy Meets World because it fell into that awkward time zone between Seinfeld and Breaking Bad. Warrant and Bon Jovi mercifully ebbed into Pearl Jam and now I secretly listen to the Civil Wars.

I have no real affection for Wrecking Balls.

I have the privilege (?) of being alive in an eon where everything is connected and all my flesh-and-blood friends have other friends over the Internet whom I will never meet but sure spend a lot of time 'liking' each others photos of what they all ate for breakfast before they all posted the contents of that meal for the rest of the world to like, too.

Times change and while that is the understatement of the year, I'm not sure how many of us accept this fact while acknowledging that we change too. We have to. When I was a kid I never put much thought into living into the next century and now, 14 years deep, I can appreciate that while the world  is not the same place, I am not the same person. Like you, I've morphed and reacted to my environment. I have committed great acts of epic heroism and dastardly feats of cowardice. My life, to this point, is given meaning by my responses to what comes my way. We have all loved and lost and helped and hindered others. What we did yesterday counts only to a small degree if we refuse to live in today.

As this new year approaches, I am not going to ask you to make any resolutions. This is contrary to past New Years when I tried to inspire or effect change. And while resolutions can be instruments for good and positive outcomes... this year I'm scrapping the idea for myself. Instead of concentrating on one fixed goal or a single measurable result, I am going to pay more attention to the journey I take in order to improve this planet. I guess I'll focus less on the road map and more on the globe. I realize this will be messy and involve quite a U-turns and Dead Ends. But so what? I cannot be afraid to go new places and try things from a fresh perspective. Yesterday's solutions were great for yesterday.

But the clock just stuck midnight. Its a new day.

So, if 2014 is going to be a year where we truly help others, then it will certainly involve some unforeseen decisions and a capacity for vision that we've not yet experienced. This has potential to be an incredible year and it is our honor to embark on it together, with you. Samaritan House will never abandon convention and all the positive ways that have yielded such great results. But we will also stretch our hearts and minds and not be afraid to explore new and innovative methods that are new.

Here's to the next year!

Friday, December 27, 2013

The In-between Days

Christmas can officially be seen making tracks in the rear view mirror and 2014 is still a few days away. Right now we're nestled in that purgatory state of the calendar as we stow away our Christmas sweaters and think of the resolutions we might start writing. I call these the 'In-between Days.' A brief and fleeting window of opportunity when we can make one final mad dash to do something epic before the calendar turns to a new picture. A time when we consciously make an effort to move forward with things we wish we would have done. We stop waiting.

Living with regret is a haunting feeling because there's always a sense of loss. That disquieting pang gnawing at our insides because we were afraid to do something. I see it in the eyes of our residents and in the hushed whispered when they recall a missed opportunity that escaped their grasp long ago. But regret is not limited to the homeless.

Too often we wait until January 1st to set things in motion. We take this week prior to New Years and shift into cruise control while we stare at the impending Resolution-Apocalypse. We drum our fingers and think pensively about how we are going to better our lives in just a few days. But why wait? Don't let these days slip away if you have something weighing on you. Do you need to make a phone call (INSTEAD of texting)? Is there a letter to be written or a conversation to be had? Don't wait.

Soon enough the in-between days will melt away and the rigors and routine of the new year will be upon us. And I would hate to think of anyone wasting these days waiting for an appointed time to effect change.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dream a Reality

There are many things in life we have no real opinion about. And while it is important to possess convictions and opinions, I don't fault people for quibbling over trivial things in life such as which pair of Christmas socks should be accessorized with what Christmas sweater for the office party.

But there are also things in our life that elicit passionate debate and responses. Cats or Griz, Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber? Or today's topic... Christmas carols. We love them or loathe them. We either jingle all the way home or we grab the reigns of that sleigh and hit Grandma going 90 miles an hour. I am in the former camp and if it means I need to turn in my "man card" so be it. I'm a sucker for Perry and Bing and Patsy.

Recently, I was listening to one of the many renditions of "I'll be Home for Christmas" and was struck by a particular lyric that I knew well but never took the time to really think about. Its the one that says," I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams." While I have heard and even uttered this line (poorly, mind you) hundreds of times, the sadness and gravity of the situation had never dawned on me. This individual desired and longed for all the trappings and amenities of Christmas, but was never going to get back to their home. They were faced with carrying Christmas with them, internally, and had to rely on memories of past holidays to carry them through.

This describes so many of our residents. We spend our time with some of the most incredible people you could meet. Families, children, veterans... Each person with a story but more importantly, each person with a past. With memories. They can recall the smell of eggnog and holly. If they close their eyes long enough, they feel the heat from the fireplace and hear the tearing of wrapping paper. But now, as homeless people, they mostly rely on their dreams. The only way they can go home for Christmas is literally in their dreams.

We do our best to provide our residents with food, shelter, and dignity. One way this happens is by giving them presents on Christmas. We rely on the kindness and generosity of our friends in the community to help us fulfill this goal. If you find yourself wanting to help, please consider the items listed in the previous blog. Or, be creative and give something spawned from the creative recesses of your own kindness. It is Samaritan House's hope that we can provide new dreams for our residents. Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


So... Christmas is fast upon us and here is a brief list of items that would come in very handy at the shelter. Please take a second and look at this list and see if there are any items you might consider purchasing for Samaritan House. Each and every thing donated will be put extraordinary use to help bless our residents.

Chap stick: this might seem like a trival and little thing, but having chapped lips and spending a lot of time outside is not a pleasurable experience.

Shampoo: this item allows people to feel clean and provides a little dignity for anyone who is self-conscious. We take things like this for granted but not everyone does.

Conditioner: We've all seen Billy Madison so we know a person cannot have shampoo without conditioner!

Male and female toiletries: just the basics can go such a long way to make people feel human and respectable.

Small gifts for men and women: while the focus of the holidays transcends material possessions, we would be honored and thankful for any gifts donated to our adult residents. Sometimes this time of year is the saddest for our residents, so having something to unwrap is a literal blessing.

Stuffed animals: a tangible item that can be touched and cuddled and whispered to. We never really outgrow the need for contact and stuffed animals for adults and kids can go a long way.

Toys for children: being a homeless child is an experience that is inexplicable unless you've lived it. Please consider blessing someone you've never met for no other reason than they deserve a good moment or two.

Nail polish: this is so much fun and our young and older ladies love being able to spend time together being girly!

Thanks so much for your time. Call the shelter at 257-5801 for any questions or specific inquiries.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Samaritan House Christmas Challenge

So, here we are. A time of year where reflection and contemplation are valued as we look back over the past year and think about what has happened. As the holiday season looms on the horizon, its easy to kick back into cruise control and simply coast into 2014. I mean, we've all earned a little respite from the hustle and bustle and chaos of the year. Time to relax, right? Enjoy our friends and families and the 3,000 college football bowls about to begin.

Hmm... Sounds nice.

Or, what if we bucked conventional thought and ended the year with a flurry of activity? What if we fought aganist the logical and rational ideas of rest and relaxation and made ourselves very uncomfortable instead? For those interested, I would like to propose an idea absurd enough that it might just change the culture and social landscape of Kalispell. For lack of a better name, lets call it the Samaritan House Christmas Challenge. Here's how it works:

From now until the end of the year, do one thing every day that is inconvenient and a hassle and will cause you to wince. Do one thing every day that focuses on helping or blessing another person simply for the sake of it. Forget accolades and notoriety or being recognized as Philanthropist of The Year. Exhibit kindness because it the right thing to do. I won't tell you how or what this looks like. It can be anything from dropping off a donation to holding a door open so a few more people can walk through.

If this seems trite or silly or a waste, then I fear you have forgotten what it feels like to be the recipient of such an act of kindness that your whole day changes. We can change the course of people's lives by simply being kind. Performing such random acts of kindness might just inspire others to do the same. So, this is the challenge I propose. Lets end the year proactively, doing for others.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas on Minimum Wage

Lately, there have been a few stories in the national media chronicling food service workers and the low pay they receive. Some of the lowest paying jobs in America are tied to this industry. Over the years, I can recall many of our residents who found employment with various fast food restaurants around Kalispell, so this issue has a profound effect on those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

 In July, Forbes magazine interviewed Carman Iverson, a 28-year-old minimum-wage McDonald's worker in Kansas City, Missouri, who has four children.  Many people think finding any job is a cure for not being homeless, but the article detailed the utter impossibility of making ends meet on the wage, especially in an industry that limits workers' hours.

Taken from the interview:  Iverson said she started working in 2012 at $7.25 an hour, and makes $7.35 an hour now after Missouri adjusted the minimum wage. She makes between $400 and $600 a month. Her rent is $650 a month. When asked how she could pay her rent on those wages, she said she had a landlord who works with her. "I'm kind of on my last little leg, because I've been late on rent. I'm actually behind three months in rent.

"Sometimes I can pay it, sometimes I can't. I get paid twice a month, and both checks go to rent and the rest of it goes to utilities to the point where I don't have any money left to buy anything for my kids -- to buy them clothes, shoes or anything they need." She said she manages to feed her four children on $543 worth of food stamps a month.

Many single parents are in the same position as Iverson, living check to check and day to day. Without an accommodating landlord, she would likely be out on the streets. But what about the hundreds of thousands of tenants who are not shown such grace? Leniency with rent seems to be the exception rather than the rule. As the calendar turns toward Christmas, this time of year can be difficult for families attempting to balance rent, food, utilities, and presents for children on such a limited budget.

It is our hope that some of you would be willing to help out with Christmas at Samaritan House. If you are able, would you consider making a donation toward our residents or to help the shelter? As we are approaching the holiday season and end of the year, we will have a detailed list of items we need and ways you can help.

Thank you for everything!

Friday, December 6, 2013


Hello friends,

You may have heard that last month a boiler at the shelter broke down. This is a $4,100 repair. Luke Lautaret, a well known musician in the area, organized a fundraiser "jam" with nearly 50 local musicians in attendance to raise money for this expense

The Kalispell NBC affiliate KCFW did an article about the event. You can view the article here:


The Kalispell ABC FOX news will air an article about the fundraising effort later today, where you can see the Samaritan House and maybe even the actual boiler itself. Also, watch for more information in the Daily InterLake on Saturday, December 7th.

A gentleman has stepped forward offering to match any funds raised towards this expense. This very generous offer expires Monday morning December 9th.

Would you help spread the word, donate or even forward this email to someone that may be able to help?

You can donate online at: http://www.homelessintheflathead.com/

or via mail or in person at:
Samaritan House
124 9th Ave West
Kalispell, MT 59901
(406) 257-5801

Please be sure to designate your donation to  "Samaritan House Boiler Repair".

Thank you very much for helping Samaritan House provide a warm place for the people we serve. Your consideration is very appreciated.   
Chris Krager
Executive Director

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fence Sittin'

Earlier this week I was speaking to a group of 8th graders about the difference between rights and responsibilities. The context of the conversation centered around what should be done if a person is being bullied or discriminated against. I asked if they felt any compulsion to get involved if the situation didn't directly affect them. If another person was in danger, did they have a responsibility to step in and help, or did they have the right to remain uninvolved? It was a great conversation and it rabbit trailed off into a few other interesting directions.

Those who felt mandated to get involved based their belief on the idea that doing nothing is the same as approving of what was happening. If a person bares witness to an ignoble act and doesn't get involved, then that person might as well participate because they are endorsing it. Allowing injustice to unfold without stepping in was viewed as cowardly and even inhumane by some of the students.

I ratcheted up the conversation by implying that helping out might cause harm to the person getting involved, but the kids didn't care. They believed we are responsible for helping others even if there is a cost or price to pay personally. When people do resist helping others then the world is a less-safe and more hostile place. It is up to us to improve this situation by refusing to stand by and let others be harmed.

But this was not a unanimous decision and other students protested that we have a fundamental right to not put ourselves in harm's way. They made a case for self-preservation and argued there is nothing wrong when a person takes care of their own self. We are not bound to an ethos that makes us responsible for others, especially those who seem to put themselves into dangerous situations repeatedly. Our first and only priority is to make sure we are okay.

The best thing about spending time with kids is that it permits us to look back over our lives and reflect on our own beliefs. Nostalgia mixes with idealism and then we snap back to the glaring reality that those days are over and we seldom have the luxury to separate our lives into near boxes that give us clear cut answers to grown up problems.

I'll let you decide which side of the fence you are on in regard to this issue. One thing, for sure, is that sometimes it easier to live in a world where hypotheticals exist. Unfortunately, that is not our reality.