Tuesday Tuneup 47

Q. What’s really bugging you this morning?

A. The question is starting to bug me.

Q. Why?

A. Because it presupposes that there’s something bugging me.  But there isn’t.  I’m feeling really good this morning.

Q. Then why did you select the question?

A. Because I assumed there would always be something bugging me every morning.

Q. Why did you make that assumption?

A. Because there usually is.  Something bugging me.  Every morning.  

Q. But this morning there is not?

A. No.  Not really.

Q. Can’t you come up with something?

A. I suppose I could.  But what’s the point?   What’s the point of dredging negativity out of my subconscious, when in my conscious mind, I feel positive about life, myself, and the world?

Q. How can you possibly feel positive about the world?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Isn’t the world going to hell in a hand basket?

A. So what else is new?   The world’s been going to hell since time immemorial.  Since the Garden, to be theologically specific.   That doesn’t mean we still can’t find good things about it.

Q. What’s good about the world?

A. Beauty.   What does it say in the Desiderata?  “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” 

Q. You believe this?

A. Yes!  What people seem to do is to focus on the negative.  Then their worlds become dismal, because they make no effort to see the positive.  But there’s always positive.  Positive abounds.  One only need tune into it.

Q. But isn’t that denial?  Like an ostrich?  Hiding your head in the sand?

A. It can be.  But it doesn’t need to be.  It’s only denial if you also deny that bad things are happening.

Q. And you don’t?

A. I try not to.  But at the same time, I don’t deny that good things are happening either.

Q. Why not?

A. Because I’m happier when I focus on the good things, despite the bad things.

Q. Would you say you are a happy person?

A. Pretty much, yes.  

Q. And you attribute this to your focus on the positive?

A. Largely, yes.   This is also biblical.   Look what St. Paul has to say about it, in his letter to the Philippians:

This week's Bible verse: Philippians 4:8 : Specificfeed

Q. So you try to focus on what’s true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable?

A. Yes.  

Q. What’s lovely?  

A. I don’t know.  What is?

Q. What do you mean, what is?

A. I’d like to know what you think is lovely.

Q. Me?

A. Not you, silly.  My readers!   What do my readers think is “lovely?”  Tell me.

The Questioner is silent.

Gratitude List 1141

1. Slept from 7 till midnight, and midnight till 6am after being up for a while at midnight.  Feeling rested.  This is the second night in a row of good solid sleep.

2. I’m lucky to have the percussionist I have in Paul.  He’s intuitive too.  That song Rosy he had never played before, yet he picked up every nuance.  He’ll be good in the show.  Not to mention, he plays a number of other instruments that may come in handy.   They told me he was a “musical genius” — and much as I don’t like to throw that term around lightly, I believe they told me right.   

3. Though my computer crisis continues, I managed amid the melee to get all my important files and folders saved onto flash drive.

4. Dave okayed up to $200 for computer repair.  Unfortuately, all pertinent repair estimates have so far have exceeded $200.  But still it’s nice that he took my computer issues seriously enough to want to help.

5. It’s possible I might be able to borrow a decent Dell laptop from a cast member.

6. Looks like I have three excellent young singer-actors for the Three Girls now: Zyowelle, Koko, and Crispi.  

7. Walked over ten miles yesterday, and have walked four miles thus far today.   There’s something to be said for walking as a mode of transportation.  Time-consuming — but it does burn off calories.

8. The Open Mike last Friday was a high event.   There was warmth among all who participated and attended.  A true feeling of community in a city I’ve come to love.

9. Have received sponsorship on my project from the Latah Recovery Center, Family Promise, and First Presbyterian Church.  The President of the Board of Directors of Family Promise wrote this wonderful appraisal of my work:

Eden in Babylon urges us to consider the damage that is caused by homelessness and poverty in the midst of affluence. Andy Pope’s significant creative energy and life experience also offers a message of hope in this musical as his characters journey through the chaos that they experience on the streets.

While homeless people are relatively invisible in our community, it deeply wounds many of our neighbors who we do not know. Eden in Babylon is a call for us to care for our neighbors who are in need.

Bruce Pitman, President
Family Promise Board of Directors   

I was just a hobo coming off of a Greyhound bus only three months shy of three years ago to this day. It amazes me how, in what seems like a very short time, an entire community of Artists and Activists has banded together in support of my project.  If I didn’t believe in God before all this happened to me, I do now.

10. God is Love.

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A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

The Beautiful Gate

One afternoon Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those entering the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked them for money.

Peter looked directly at him, as did John. “Look at us!” said Peter. So the man gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”

Taking him by the right hand, Peter helped him up, and at once the man’s feet and ankles were strengthened. He sprang to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and leaping and praising God.

When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

— Acts 3:1-10

 

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A little bit goes a long, long way.

 
 

Different Strokes

This is one of a series of pieces written on request of Alastair Boone, the editor-in-chief of the social justice newspaper, Street Spirit.  

Our society seems to be obsessed with putting people into boxes. Rather than take the time to actually get to know an individual for who they are uniquely, we like to make snap judgments about them according to their appearance. For example, if a man is seen flying a sign on a sidewalk, we think: “That guy’s a lazy bum.”

But what if that man is not a lazy bum? What if he’s someone who, for one reason or another, needs to fly a sign on that particular day, in order to raise money quickly for some certain necessity that he lacks? For all we know, he could be raising money for transportation to a distant town where someone has offered him a job. In that event, what would make him a “lazy bum?”

Pin by Margie Manifold on Science - Sociology & Cultural Practices
Erving Goffman

Sociologist Erving Goffman refers to this phenomenon as “social stigma.” He defines social stigma as the extreme disapproval of (or discontent with) a person or group on socially characteristic grounds that are perceived, and serve to distinguish them, from other members of a society.”

Many people are socially stigmatized in this fashion. A cop might be stigmatized, thought to be brutal or inhumane, only because some cops are inhumane. Naturally, those are the cops who attract the public eye. But we’ve all met good cops, haven’t we? When I was homeless, I encountered cops who treated me more humanely than some of the social workers whose job it was to help me.

Religious people are also often stigmatized. Some people think that just because I identify as a Christian, it means that I must be sexist, anti-gay, and a proselytizing Bible-thumper, ready to cram my theology down their throats. But anyone who actually takes the time to get to know me will readily tell you that I am none of those things.

In my personal experience, I have never been stigmatized more than when I was a homeless person. I was lumped into the same box as virtually every one of my fellow homeless people. And when solutions were offered to end my homelessness, I found that there was an alarming “one size fits all” approach. My personal story, if even listened to, was disregarded completely.

You’re homeless?” one would say. “Here’s what you do. I’ve got a lead on a live-in drug rehabilitation program.”

Now, there are a number of flaws with that kind of reasoning. First of all, it presupposes that homelessness and drug addiction are synonymous. This is folly. Many homeless people have never used illegal drugs at all. On the other hand, many people who live indoors are severely addicted to all kinds of drugs. They just don’t let anyone see it.

Secondly, suppose a person is a drug addict. Is a “live-in drug rehabilitation program” necessarily the solution for them? There are twelve-step programs, sober living environments, a program at Kaiser called LifeRing, and a program called Rational Recovery. Similarly, if one is homeless, one might be directed toward a board-and-care home, a live-in psychiatric facility, a halfway house, or transitional housing. And those options will work for many people.

I spoke with a formerly homeless woman who enrolled in transitional housing and spent seven months in a group facility, giving them a percentage of her disability check every month. At the end of the seven months, she had enough money to pay the first and last months rent and security deposit on a studio apartment. She seemed quite content with her situation the last time I saw her.

I myself received a call from someone at the Berkeley Food and Housing Administration shortly after I had left Berkeley for another State. It turned out that my name had come up on a list of senior housing options, and they were willing to offer me my own one-bedroom apartment near Lake Merritt. While that might sound wonderful, it would also have kept me in a part of the world where I had developed far more detrimental associations than beneficial ones. Although I was tempted to drop everything and move back to the East Bay for sentimental reasons, I knew deep down that it would be a backward move.

I have had two places of my own since I left Berkeley. The first was reached by googling keywords such as “college town,” “small town,” “affordable rent.” Those and other keywords eventually pointed me toward a place of my liking. But if another homeless person were to start googling keywords, their keywords might not be something along the lines of “big city,” “multicultural,” “low unemployment rate.” One size does not fit all.

Until we, as a society, slow ourselves down enough, and open ourselves up enough, to listen to the plethora of unique stories that homeless people generally tell truthfully, we will not come close to solving the “homeless problem.” In my case, the first person to listen to my story was a retired music teacher. He knew I was truthful because he recognized a fellow music teacher when he saw one. For another person seeking to escape the throes of homelessness, the first person to listen to their story might be a construction worker or a restaurant owner.

So, while transitional housing programs and halfway houses have their place, a true solution to the homeless predicament will never be reached until we recognize that the homeless person is an individual, endowed with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness no more and no less than anyone else on the planet. As long as the wall of division that separates a “person” from a “homeless person” still stands, no lasting solution will be attained. But once that wall is broken down, the solution will be plain to see.

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A little bit goes a long, long way.

Tuesday Tuneup 46

Q. What’s really bugging you this morning?

A. Not much.  Not much at all.

Q. Anything bugging you just a little bit?

A. Well, if you must ask, I suppose there are a couple things.

Q. Like what?

A. We didn’t get a very good turnout at the second round of auditions last night.

Q. Why not?

A. Probably because we haven’t advertised very well.  This all came up rather suddenly.

Q. What else is bugging you?

A. Well, my dyslexia is very inconvenient.   I’m doing a very important task that involves two separate computers, and saving files in two separate ways on each computer.  It’s sort of like dyslexia upon dyslexia.  These kinds of tasks take me five times as long to accomplish as the normal human being even if only one dyslexic factor is involved.  Now it’s taking twenty-five times as long.  It can be discouraging.   But you know what’s bugging me the most?

Q. What?

A. The fact that I even am expected to discuss what’s bugging me this morning, rather than what I’m really happy about.

Q. What are you really happy about?

A. My daughter!!

The Questioner is silent.   

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A little bit goes a long, long way.