Monthly Archives: August 2012

Offering Dignity…

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dig·ni·ty

[dig-ni-tee] noun, plural dig·ni·ties

1. Bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation.

2. Nobility or elevation of character; worthiness: dignity of sentiments.

3. Elevated rank, office, station, etc.

4. Relative standing; rank.

5. A sign or token of respect

The Dignity Station at Nightstrike (http://bridgetowninc.org/environments/nightstrike/) is the place where guests can come to pick up toiletries, as well as get their hands cleansed with warm water, receive a massage with moisturizing lotion, and a manicure if they desire. While many guests visit to pick up necessary personal hygiene items, others come for the manicure, the kind word, the touch, and the eye contact.

 

Last week at the Dignity Station, there was dignity enough for guests and volunteers alike.

Monica—This lovely young lady and I spoke about job interviews and a tough economy as I cleaned her hands and painted her nails a shocking shade of pink. She had recently gone through a rigorous interview process with Target and was really hopeful that her previous experience with the store in Alabama would help her secure a position. Monica was friendly, funny, and polite. She wanted to be as little trouble as possible and asked if I thought she could come back to volunteer once she got back on her feet financially. Being able to talk about the feelings you have when losing a job, was a bridge to insight for both of us into the life of the other. My time connecting with Monica was easy, calm, and full of gratitude and respect for both of us.

Junior High Girls—As they sit on the fence between childhood and adulthood, pre-teen and young teen girls are often silly, emotional, and awkward. Often what is uncertainty on their part due to lack of experience, is viewed as judgment or vanity. As I watched a group of 4 girls on a Transformation Trip struggle with how to help the guests at the Dignity Station last Thursday, I saw that they themselves were fighting for their own dignity. That age is such a time of rank…of position…of standing. It is a time when they are trying to determine their own personal worth and therefore trying to sort out the personal worth of the often dirty, sometimes foul-mouthed, and seemingly different guests who’s nails they were painting left them vulnerable and confused. I must say I was impressed and blessed by the one young lady who was very talkative with a guest who is in recovery. She laughed, listened and shared openly. In response he was visibly blessed and smiled more in that brief encounter that I’d seen him smile all evening (he was nearby most of the night).

Brittany—She wanted red fingernails. She wanted to eat. She wanted somewhere to sleep. She wanted a fix. She wanted a bathroom. She wanted a new backpack. She wanted new clothes. She wanted to be hugged. She wanted to not be touched. She wanted to borrow our phones. She wanted us to give her money. She wanted us to know she had money. She wanted quiet. She wanted it not to be so quiet and creepy. She wanted help. She wanted to prove she didn’t need help.
She needed dignity.
And she received it. In the midst of what was a major tweak from something very strong, several of us gave this young lady our undivided attention and tried to help her clean up, provide some warm clothing, find her somewhere safe to sleep, and provide guidance to a few next steps. When Nightstrike was over and all was put away neatly and cleaned up, two of us still sat with her under Burnside Bridge trying to show her respect…the highest form of dignity one person can offer another.

Me—There is dignity in knowing your own worth and position. So many of us wrap our self-worth up in how much money we make, what our title is, where we live, where we went to school, how smart we are, how pretty we are, and on and on and…
Dignity for me is knowing that I am uniquely loved by the Creator of the Universe…while accepting that I am no more loved by God than the richest man in the world, the most pious religious leader, or the poorest of people living on the streets of Portland.
I am offered dignity by virtue of my position as one of God’s “So-Loved”. I am deserving of dignity because I have a spirit, a pulse, and breath in my body…and because of those things…even on my worst day, there is HOPE.

Hope for reconciliation.
Hope for a different outcome.
Hope for a fresh start.
Hope for more love.
Hope for a peaceful world in which to dwell.
Hope for a smile.
Hope for healing.

Those of us with hope should be the picture of hope to someone else. We should willingly give respect, grace, mercy, and love to those who are different than us…without first stopping to determine their worth.

They have been marked worthy by The Divine. Who are you to disagree?

Instead…offer dignity.

 

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Seattle: Come Rain or Come Shine–Month 3

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Things are changing. A shift if brewing. What may seem unsettled to others is a long slow movement for me to a new place.

I’ve been in Seattle 3 months.

I have had some very low lows in Seattle and some very lovely days full of grace and gratitude. Thankfully because I have chosen to live gratefully each day, the scale has tipped towards the latter as the former fade. 

I am definitely working through some deep stuff.

If you asked me I’d break the last 2 1/2 years up like this…
Jan 2010 to May 2010–Discontent
June 2010 to Jan 2011–Naked Fear
Feb 2011 to May 2011–Silent Waiting
June 2011 to June 2012–Solitude
July 2012 to present–Reconstruction

Given the previous segments, reconstruction sounds like a breeze right? But reconstruction is exactly what it sounds like.

It involves removing nails and screws…no matter how deeply they have been hammered in or how rusty they have become. It involves examining every part of the structure for dangerous materials. It involves checking every bit of brick, wood, adobe (yup, I’m a New Mexican) holding this structure together to ensure soundness and reliability. It means that if something is not in good working condition it will be retooled or replaced. And it means that sometimes you do everything you can to save an old part of the building materials because damaged though they might be, they are a part of your structure.

This is how I feel about my life in its current state. I am deeply examining so many of my long-held beliefs. I am reconsidering dreams that I’d long given up on. I am viewing life as a place of possibility rather than a foregone conclusion. I am filling in the old wounds from a life of invisibility, fear, and shame with courage, insight, intuition and faith. I am shedding old relationships and old memes that only tear me down and making room for new people, places, and thoughts that build me up.

None of this is easy.

All of it is work.

And it’s exhilarating.

Seattle is the right place to do this part of my work for three main reasons…
1. It is a city that belongs to ME. My family doesn’t live here. None of my friends live here (except new ones of course). No one else can claim history here that muddies it for me.

2. The rain. I think I needed the time that the rains in Seattle have and will afford me to shut down my need to go go go and allow me to turn inside. I also think that symbolically there is no where else (well…maybe London) where the work I’m doing could feel like it is being nourished by the rain that symbolizes cleansing and nourishment for a desert dweller like me.

Seattle Underground Tour

3. Seattle is a city that has been reconstructed literally on top of itself after being devastated by a fire in 1889. Instead of just

rebuilding what they’d had before, the city took it as an opportunity to make improvements. The irony is that the Seattle I live in…with it’s completely insane streets and transportation system…is the improved version. I love that. The feeling of no rhyme or reason is indeed both rhyme and reason…planned quirkiness. Now that’s something I can do! 🙂

Writing ideas are beginning to flood back into my brain. Books are becoming of interest to me again. Maybe soon I will turn back to the pen (or keyboard as the case may be) and actually start producing some sustenance for others to consume. I’ll know more once the reconstruction is further along and the new home starts to take shape.

As always…stay tuned! 😉

Who I am on a day like today…

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I’m a Vegan…
so the chances of me stepping foot in a Chick Fil A are SLIM and NONE given their use of factory farmed chickens and the stats associated with their most sold meal (see picture)

I’m a Girl…
so I’m already disqualified from being a Boy Scout or be called a PEDIPHILE because I am a gay man who wants to be a leader and spend time with my son

My parents are heterosexual…
so schools like Hope Christian School in Albuquerque, New Mexico won’t be able to deny me admittance because of my gay parents even though they received $60,000 in federal tax money

I am not a parent…
so I won’t lose a custody battle with my partner because I’m not the genetic parent of the child we are fighting over in a divorce even though that rule doesn’t apply to adoptive parents

I am not a lesbian…
so I won’t have to sit in the waiting room in some states while my partner of 20+ years DIES ALONE because I am not considered next of kin

I am not gay…
so I don’t have to worry about any of the following extremely violent acts happening because of who I sleep with…
…23 year old Thapelo who was beheaded
…20 year old Matthew who was pistol-whipped, kicked, tied to a fence, and died
…24 year old Daniel who was mutilated, carved with swastikas, and died in a park
…33 year old woman who was mutilated, had hate words carved into her body and died
…the list goes on and on

I am a Christian…
so that means that I do try my best to live by what Christ said and caring about what he cared about

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have    loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!”

Matthew 22: 37-40 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Luke 6: 35-36 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”

Luke 11: 42 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

John 17: 22-23 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”

I’m a friend…
and that means that I’m given chances every single day to show love to my friends.

…My Christian friends who are so ignorant of how hurtful their words and actions are to another human being.

…My gay friends who are so angry at the injustice in their lives that they don’t help, and instead drive more wedges.

…My friends from both sides of the argument who are trying to build bridges, live their lives, and who are more concerned with creating love and peace in the world than on fighting over who gets to be included in their world.

Some more stuff that is interesting to read:
To Gay American from a Heterosexual Christian Male—An Apology: http://crockpotchristianity.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/to-gay-america-from-a-heterosexual-christian-male-apology/

We are Not Arguing Over Chicken:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/conor-gaughan/chick-fil-a-homophobia_b_1711566.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#sb=918957,b=facebook

Why I’m a Straight Christian Fighting for Gay Rights:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/emily-timbol/straight-christian-fighting-for-gay-rights_b_1710102.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009&utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#sb=1427277,b=facebook

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin:
http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2007/06/love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin.html