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.

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