Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Letter to a Young Activist

Below, you’ll find a short letter Thomas Merton wrote to a young activist. I think it says a lot, not just about work in advocacy and activism, but also idealism and the hopes many of us try to live out (as hard as that may be sometimes), for a better world.  Additionally, Merton is one of the most eloquent writers i have ever read (highly recommend reading his work, whether you’re a believer or a doubter). This was recommended to me by one of the leading voices for social change in Seattle, Michael Ramos, and I think it speaks to deep truths I would never be able to articulate quite like Merton can. This letter, as well as Merton’s legacy, represent so many elements of Christianity I’m really passionate about…so I thought I’d share this with you all. Enjoy!

Letter To a Young Activist     

“Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.
The big results are not in your hands or mine, but they suddenly happen, and we can share in them; but there is no point in building our lives on this personal satisfaction, which may be denied us and which after all is not that important.
The next step in the process is for you to see that your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and your witness. You are using it, so to speak, to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.
The great thing after all is to live, not to pour out your life in the service of a myth: and we turn the best things into myths. If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ’s truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments. Because I see nothing whatever in sight but much disappointment, frustration and confusion.
The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do God’s will, we will be helping in this process. But we will not necessarily know all about it before hand”.
Enough of this…it is at least a gesture…I will keep you in my prayers.
All the best, in Christ,


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jenn's YouTube Debut!

The Church Council of Greater Seattle took a short video of me talking about some of the work I've been doing and how it connects to my faith. It's being used as a part of their fundraising as well, with the theme of wingspan. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Multifaith Conversation on Homelessness

This is an article that Phil (one of the other Plymouth interns) and I wrote about an event that we organized at Plymouth Church last month. 

Where does our call to work on the issue of homelessness come from? This was the main question that a group of Christians and Muslims wrestled with on Saturday, April 20th in a program that focused on the way that an understanding of the roots of our passion can keep us inspired and hopeful. We listened as Tarek Dawoud from the Muslim Association of Puget Sound wove together teachings from the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad, wisdom about the nature of work and wealth, and the comparison of poverty in his native country of Egypt with Seattle. Rick Reynolds (Executive Director of Operation Nightwatch) spoke about the teachings of Jesus, the boundaries that we create to make ourselves more comfortable, and the great love that he has seen the homelessness share with others. Both men’s testimony revolved around relationship; it is because of broken relationships and a broken society that people find themselves homeless. Consequently, it is through relationships that we can most compassionately and effectively work to end homelessness.
A majority of our time was spent in small groups discussing our own faith journeys and the themes we saw within and across faith boundaries. We also looked for opportunities to partner in this work and have already seen this emerge out of the discussion.
Carol Mooney wrote:
"I was fortunate to be in a small group with Amira from the Muslim Association of Puget Sound. She expressed a desire to work with older homeless women. Both Jessie Attri and I volunteer at Mary's Place and shared a bit with our group about what happens there. I invited Amira to join me on Tuesday when Jessie and I attend the Hour of Power with Pastor Linda at Mary's Place. She came and was very enthusiastically received by the pastor, who believes that there is tremendous potential for connecting Amira with homeless Muslim women and children. Amira was eager to share what she learned with her group. It feels to me like something wonderful will come from this. The topic discussed among the women today was grace - and indeed it felt like grace to me to have attended the workshop, met Amira, and see a connection made which touched all of us present at Mary's Place today and hopefully will touch many more in the future."
--Phil Vestal and Jennifer Hagedorn

May Day March

May Day was such an incredible day! Especially with all of the news coverage that focused on the small (and separate) groups of people who were confrontational with the police officers and destructive of property, I wanted to make sure that people who weren't able to attend would still get a sense of the May Day that I experienced.

Marianne and I, along with the rest of the Puget Sound Sage staff, joined up with the march that left from Judkins Park, down S. Jackson, around downtown, and ending at the Federal Building. What struck me most about the marchers (left), were how many different types of groups were represented: labor unions, community groups, worker’s rights groups, faith groups, immigrant rights groups, and even the Seattle Superheroes (below) were out in full force. It was a gorgeous sunny day and the energy was infectious.

Marianne and I moved up and down the mass of people in order to fully appreciate all that the marchers had to offer; there were small bands, enthusiastic mega-phone wielders, noise makers, clever signs, and of course the powerful “Si se puede!” chanters! We were joined by Rev. Brandon Duran (from Plymouth Church) and ended up spending a lot of our time with Pin@y because they had the most exciting chants, which included some choreography! My favorite was the “Get up (put your hands up), get down (squat down), there’s a people’s movement in this town!” So much fun!

These types of actions make me hopeful because it allows me to see what is possible. All the people who were there had different priorities for change based on their own experiences and the experiences of their communities. Despite this, there was recognition that we are stronger when we are working together. Solidarity is a powerful and necessary tool in creating change and I was proud to be a part of it on May Day.

-Jenn Hagedorn

Sunday, May 5, 2013

More than just a backpack....

We have all been really busy which is why we haven't posted in such a long time. We've been out of town two weekends in a row - our first weekend was at the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the UCC and our second weekend away was for a retreat at Fox Island, a beautiful island just south of Seattle.

I could probably write a post on each of the weekends listed above but I wanted to share with you a little update of what I've been working on at my agency. In April,  I began coordinating on a project that will take up the rest of my internship at the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, Project Cool for Back-to-School.  Project Cool is a program that gives brand-new backpacks stuffed with school supplies to homeless students in pre-K - 12 grade who are in shelters and transitional housing programs.  I've only just started working on Project Cool, but I know that I'm going to love it.

One of the most important things I've learned so far is that Project Cool is about so much more than just the backpacks; it's about making sure that a child who is facing the daily chaos of homelessness gets to start school on even footing with his classmates.  It's making sure that a child who has an unstable living situation, is able to enter school in September with the same tools for success as any other child in her class.  And finally, it's about making sure that a homeless child doesn't have to worry about whether they are going to face the stigma of not having enough money to buy school supplies or a backpack at school.  This is what Project Cool is about for the almost 1,300 kids we serve in King County, and this is why I am so excited to have the chance to coordinate the project this year.

If you want to learn more about Project Cool, please feel free to visit our website:


Thursday, February 14, 2013

You might live in a tiny apartment if...

You know your apartment's tiny when....

  • you have to reach over an open flame to reach the microwave
  • four people laughing at one time is overwhelming
  • you've lost something and you just have to turn in circles to find it
  • one cook in the kitchen is already too many
  • you can hear people snoring two rooms over
  • it makes your tiny office feel spacious 
  • you don't need two tin cans and a yard of string to whisper messages across the room
  • if one person is watching the Grammys, you're all watching the Grammys 
  • it can be heated by only two space heaters
  • you can walk 10 steps and walk from one end of the apartment to the other

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

When Advocacy Becomes Real

So today, I had a humbling experience that made all of this “advocacy stuff” much more real.

Walking down the streets in Seattle, you see homeless people. It’s a sad reality, one that i can’t truly come to terms with. It’s terrible not to know someone’s story, but to know that right now, when you’re seeing them, somehow they’re on the streets. How did they get there? What happened in the journey of this person’s life has lead them into this big city with nothing but a ragged sleeping bag? After all, what separates them from myself is absolutely nothing through the eyes of God, and through the humanity that exists and unites all of us.

Fighting their own battle

See, at my internship lately, i’ve been calling LOTS of legislators to advocate for those less fortunate, to empower the voice of those who aren’t heard. To get more revenue into our broken system that isn’t providing health and human services to those who really need it. Somehow though, those calls don’t impact me the way seeing someone struggling on the streets really does, even if it may be a step in the right direction. Sometimes it feels like a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of sitting at a desk trying to unite people through a database throughout our state, but when the things you’re advocating for look you in the eye, things take on a different shape.

Earlier tonight, right after President Obama’s State of the Union address, a young couple buzzed the caretaker button, and arose me from the couch to ask for a safe place to stay and some food. They said someone had told them to come to the church, and that it’s a place that would welcome them. I had to break the news to them that our church doesn’t offer those services, and advised them to call 2-1-1 for human service. They told me that had done that, and no one responded. Now, I don’t know these people, but i know that the only thing that really makes us different is that they are outside in the cold, and i’m inside a cramped apartment in a church. But i’m INSIDE! I have this place to stay, somewhere warm to go, and even though I have to live with three others in this tiny place, it’s a place where i’m welcome. It’s a place i can sleep at night, and eat, and live. It tears me apart that somehow this guy and his girlfriend didn’t have that. I sent him away with a couple ham and cheese sandwiches and some almonds, what little I could spare.

What really hit me about this though is how angry it made me feel. How on Earth could this happen? It’s infuriating to me. Another thing that hit me about this was the surreal timing. I just finished watching Obama deliver a speech that stated minimum wage should be raised to 9.00 dollars, but this is an issue that should go beyond party lines. These are HUMANS! It could be our brothers and sisters, and they have no place to stay.

“Every man is fighting his own battle”. Plato knew what he was talking about when he said that, and I think what he meant by this was that there is no way we can know what happened to that couple on the street, but what we do have is empathy. What if that were us? Or worse, what if that was someone in our family? Could he have been lazy? Maybe. But Maybe, just MAYBE, they came about a rough patch in life, as we all do, and now here are these two people swallowing their pride and asking me for help. That alone must unite us. We’re all in this boat together, and I know it’s idealistic, dreamy, and out there to think we can just solve a problem as catastrophic and huge as homelessness, and it won’t happen overnight, but i believe in that alternate vision, and my faith is becoming more and more apart of that, trying to make that a reality. This Seattle experience can be terribly challenging sometimes, but living in big city has taken away some of my rose-tinted glasses to come closer to seeing things as they really are. This is life. Whew.