Converts

The unshakable faith and fervor of a convert is insufferable. I know, because I am one.

The reason I think the faith of convert is unshakable is that they have often been through something for which God had to intervene, personally. Faith, for a convert, is less about blind belief and more about personal experience.

I am Catholic.

I became a Catholic, surrounded by Mormons. While the LDS people I grew up around carried some of the strongest testimonies of faith, it was the hand of Christ himself who put me on the path I am on.

At 12 years old, I had already been seeking a home church. I begged every person I knew that went to church to take me to theirs. I got dressed up on Sundays and Wednesday nights and went tagalong to any services I could go to. In the meantime, I read the Bible and holy books from many other churches: the Book of Mormon, the Talmud, the Quran, and all the literature from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. By the time I was 14 I began to flounder. None of the messages I heard, none of the scriptures I read, none of the lessons I followed spoke to my heart the way prayer did. I wanted church to feel like prayer, like a connection between me and God.

I already had faith that God existed, loved me, and saw each person as valuable; no matter whether their clothes fit or not. I knew that God loved me (and everyone) and cared about what we did with our lives. No one could take that away. I had faith that there were Godly people in every church, but I could not always find them. I wanted a church where the people treated each other like God would, with love and acceptance, and I wasn’t finding it.

On the verge of giving up, I told my best friend about my search and how it was failing. We were at a bus stop on 2100 so and 500 East at 5:30 AM, like we had been every day of high school.

She pondered for a minute and said “Have you been here?” She nodded at the church building right behind us.

“No,” I replied, looking up at the unique building. It said “St. Anne’s Catholic Parish.” I blanched at the idea of anyone named “Anne” being saintly, but mused about the name and how it might be a sign.

St. Anne’s, SLC UT

I knew that my grandfather had been Catholic, but I had never known any personally.

“I don’t know anyone there.”

“We’ll go with you,” my friend said, volunteering her family to go with us.

We got all dressed up and met at the front doors of the church on Sunday. Crowds of people were filing into the building, and we tried to act confident as we followed them in. I was stunned to see cigarette ashtrays outside the doors. I was also stunned to see that many other people were there in shorts and T-shirts, which would’ve been far more comfortable than my long dress in the June heat.

We found a place to sit along the middle of the room and sat back to listen and watch. We knew nothing of the service. It was startling that the congregation participated in the prayers and responded to the priest, though I didn’t know that’s what he was called. Because I didn’t know enough about the service at the time, I couldn’t say just when during the mass it happened. What I can say is that I was sitting. I looked up at the suspended statue of the ascension of Christ over the altar and was overwhelmed with a vision. Instead of sitting in the church I was suddenly standing in a field, a meadow. As I spun around in the field, feeling the warm sun on my face and a breeze against my skin, looking around at paradise; I saw Jesus. He saw me and threw back his head laughing, then opened his arms to hug me. As he wrapped his arms around me, still smiling, he said “Welcome home.”

I came back from that vision, determined to join the church. It was not easy for a 14 year old girl to jump through all the hoops required. Just finding godparents was complicated. But after two years, I was finally baptized and confirmed.

Which Church (if any) a person belongs to is a very personal choice. I would never proselytize and tell others that being Catholic is right for them. For many years, being a convert was very difficult. Like being a Muggle born witch, I felt so far behind all the people who had been born and raised Catholic. Eventually, I found my footing and my place and I’ve never looked back. For me, I know I was home. It’s the only home I’ve ever really found.

Seattle utilizes a multi-faceted response to homelessness.

(As in previous articles, hyperlinks will take you to information, articles, or videos with more information.)

Homelessness is an issue that is dear to my heart. It’s not important to me because it was horrible being homeless as a child, or because I worry about my brother living on the streets. It’s because, like hunger in America, there is no need for it!

We have enough food to feed everyone.

We have enough homes to shelter everyone.

GREED is the only reason we have homelessness or hunger in our developed nation. In other countries issues that prevent society from feeding or providing shelter include lack of resources, lack of infrastructure, or lack of economic opportunity. We do not have those excuses.

You may have heard it before, but in case you have not: There are nearly 30 empty homes in our country for EVERY homeless person. “The most recent data from the National Alliance to End Homelessness puts the number of homeless people at 552,830. There are more than 17 million vacant homes across the U.S., according to the Census Bureau.” – (Check Your Fact article, 12/24/2019)

It made my day to learn that Jenny Durkan, Mayor of Seattle, has made a point to support the creation of a tiny home village and opened a new 24/7 shelter that houses 40 people. This has created an additional 100 sheltered spaces for people in need since the pandemic began. It’s likely a drop in the ocean of Seattle’s unsheltered population, though I am so happy to see the effort made.

If you’ve read any of the other articles I’ve written about tiny homes, you’ll know that I’m a HUGE fan of the movement, especially when groups or organizations create communities. Homeless people form communities naturally. They are organic and mutually supportive communities that look out for one another. We should utilize that strength when looking for solutions. Tiny home communities seem like a no-brainer: give people living in tents or tarps something slightly more secure. Then offer case management. The housing has to come first, though.

Shelter is not just the ability to get out of the elements to sleep, as many shelters allow. Some of the many barriers for homeless populations are being unable to securely leave their personal property so that they can function during the day, lacking an address to put on resumes and accounts, getting quality sleep, and having a place to cook food. For children, there is the added anxiety of not knowing where they will be sleeping because they know they have to move frequently.

Some places, like LA, are fighting the creation and placement of tiny homes throughout the city: impounding some without allowing the owners time to collect thier belongings. I’m really excited to hear that Seattle’s tiny home communities were built at the mayor’s request!

Way to go Mayor Durkan! Keep it up.

Unexpected Care Packs (A Call to Action).

I added a stamped envelope, pen, and paper: inviting them to ’write to someone who misses you.”

Every time I see someone panhandling, sleeping on the street, or hitchiking with a large pack my heart catches. I think back to my long hours of waiting at bus stops in the cold, snow, and rain. I sat watching hundreds of cars go by with only the driver inside. I was resentful then and still often feel guilty if I drive anywhere alone in my minivan.

I watched the people pass by as I sat. I was hungry, tired, cold and wet. I never asked anyone for anything, but I wished desperately that someone would offer me a kind word, a snack, or a ride. I imagined sliding into a warm car and being driven in comfort before being dropped off close to my house. It rarely if ever happened.

I know what it feels like to wonder where I would sleep at night. I know what kind of desperate obsession hunger becomes when you can see others eating things you cannot have. I can easily disregard the choices that may have led people to the point where they are now: standing with a cardboard sign. I simply see a person suffering, that could benefit from any kindness.

Nowadays I rarely carry cash. All my income is direct-deposited and I don’t often need cash. In those moments when I see someone who is so very much in need, I often wish I had something to give them.

I have recently hit upon an idea I am excited about: care packs. The concept is simple; you buy a box of zipper bags and pack them full of small items that a person living rough or down-on-their-luck might need. You then keep them in your car. When you come across someone in need, you give them a care pack instead of, or in addition to, just handing out cash.

Something like this would have made a world of difference for me. I’ll include a list of items that might be good at the bottom of this post.

This is an article about some people in Jacksonville that have been helping people in this way. https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.jacksonville.com/amp/5556519002

Here is my list: Snack bars, protein snacks, rasins, hand sanitizer, face masks, tissues or toilet paper, liquid soap, shampoo, toothbrush/toothpaste, socks, deodorant, soap and washcloth or wipes, a trash bag, a few dollars or a gift card to a grocery store or fast food. * I pack a couple with some feminine hygiene, too. In case I meet a person who needs those.

Drop a comment below with your thoughts? Share pictures if you make some packs of your own!

A Simple Act of Kindness Makes a Big Impact on others.

Many times in my life being seen and included by strangers was the difference between having a really positive experience and having a bad one. Being given a ride by a stranger resulted in a short trip in a warm car instead of freezing at a bus stop. Being invited in to a party meant not being alone for a while. Being asked to stay for dinner could mean I got to eat that day.

After having lived in New England, even a smile and eye-contact when I’m out on a walk really brightens my day.

This is why I understand how much it meant to this woman that these boys noticed a her sitting alone and acted. A group of boys at a diner thought about it and made a difference (and a friend!). Here is a news report about it: https://youtu.be/xyhQyi_KrWE

Have you ever felt sorry when you saw someone who was obviously cold, alone, hungry, or excluded. What would our world look like if we were to act on those feelings and make a difference for others?

What small thing could you do to make a difference for someone else?

About a week ago I saw a woman on the side of a busy freeway. It was hot. She looked worried. She was driving a van, so I assumed she had children though I could not tell if they were with her.

I made a split-second decision to pull over to ask if I could help. It turned out she was out of gas. She had been waiting for an hour for road side assistance. She had three sweaty kids getting impatient. Cars had blown their horns at her. Thousands of people had simply rushed by. We chatted for a minute while I tried to think of how to help. I asked if they had water to drink. Then I realized that it would be complicated to drive back and forth, but I could simply go get her some gas and bring it back. It took me about 10 minutes to borrow a gas can from the station, fill it, and haul it down the road and back again to where she was stuck.

Once I’d poured the fuel I had into her tank, she could be on her way again. They could all cool off and get home. She gratefully returned the can to the station so that I could be on my own way again. She couldn’t believe that I had stopped to help. I thought that was a little sad. It should be normal to ask for and receive all manner of help from our fellow humans.

I hope you’ll join me as I continue to seek out opportunities to give a simple act of kindness to those who need it.

Tiny Homes for Everyone!

I’m a big fan of the ‘Tiny home” movement. I lived in 600 sq ft homes (or less) from 2007 until 2014. There is something wonderful about minimalism and small spaces.

Many people are downsizing as the economy falters or the gap between wealthy and lower-income families widens. Some choose it as a way to avoid crushing debt or to save money in order to pay off student loans while still having a space to call their own.

One innovative approach to the homeless veteran population is to create tiny home communities that offer not only housing but addiction support and access to social services and mental health care. This kind of solution could work for populations of all kinds; immigrants/asylum seekers, foster youth that are aging out, young mothers, even homeless families. We know that housing-first solutions can prevent the slide into substance abuse and create the opportunity for stability that everyone needs in order to be successful at holding a job and home on their own again. I hope you’ll look more into this and support the work that is being done. Maybe you could support the project creating a community like this in your area?

The project website is here: https://www.veteranscommunityproject.org/https://www.veteranscommunityproject.org/

A great article about what they are doing is here: https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/former-politician-jason-kander-pushes-make-mental-health-services-available-n1027951

Kindness in Action

A Dallas man searches the streets for unsheltered people, hoping to drive them to shelters on the coldest nights.

He’s been cold, hungry, and sleeping rough himself. This article shares how he now does what he can to help keep some of the most vulnerable in our society alive when everyone else looks the other way. Or looks right through them.

Thank you, B.B. for seeing them as people, and for doing what you can to help them stay warm and alive.