When I was in first grade, I found myself falling in love with Annie Freestone. As a six year-old, it was new territory. I knew that I didn’t feel towards her like I did my parents or siblings. I was excited to see her and hear her voice and watch her. It was better than playing with the boys or eating ice cream. So it must’ve been love.
In the midst of my admiration for Annie, I learned to love watching her. I watched her in class and on the playground. She was a goddess to me. One afternoon at recess, I was solicited by a friend of hers to join in a clandestine game of kissing tag, beyond the view of the watchful eyes of any adults. I feared the idea of being kissed by anyone but Annie. But the prospect of her kiss was too enticing to not play the odds.
I soon found myself being hotly pursued by the girl of my dreams. She smiled and beamed with joy. She laughed and gave me chase. Driven in part by a competitive desire to win, and in part by fear of actually sharing the intimacy of a kiss with Annie, I ran until she gave up. I never played coy and feigned being the captor, so as to allow a kiss.
It would seem that this pattern of running from intimacy has repeated well into my adult life. And while I’ve had satisfying dating experiences, and others still that have taught me a great deal, the story of running from love has been played out repeatedly by one side or the other in my relationships.
But this year has been different. I’ve found moments where I’ve felt the same discomfort at being intimate that I felt as a six year-old and could never articulate until recently. But in dating Kate, I have found a proverbial Annie Freestone whom I have begun to allow moments of catching me in our ongoing game of kissing tag.
It had been my intent during the month of December to slowly put together an episode using clips from conversations with a few homeless men to address the issue of homelessness. However, the vision for that episode was quickly changed as I joined many of you in witnessing through media the events going on in Syria. Now, I know the video below has caused some partisan arguments, but when my sister and I were hanging out in December and came across this, the human element of it struck me to the core.
After seeing that and reflecting on the dark side of humanity a bit with my sister and with myself, I felt it was important to extend the subject of this episode to address the idea of remembering the downtrodden among us and in distant places.
As you listen to the podcast, I spend time quoting from news stories about the war in Syria and refugee camps. There are also a few thoughts from a first hand observer who spent time in Greece this last year, working with refugees. The latter part of the episode transitions to hearing from a few homeless men in the U.S. and hearing about how they got to where they are, what life looks like as a homeless person and what they want in life.
You can listen to the embedded media below for the podcast, or find it on iTunes or SoundCloud, just look for episode 12.
I truly hope that when ever we individually and collectively confront human tragedy in our own countries or through media that we spend time reflecting on why those people are in a position of being downtrodden. I hope that reflection brings compassion and in that compassion, I hope we find ourselves moved to action.
The letter written to the BBC about conditions in Aleppo that was read in the podcast can be found here.
The Nick Miller article in the Sydney Morning Herald, also read in the podcast can be found here.
The episode image includes an image taken from the below tweet in addition to photos I personally took.
In this episode we talk about what happened recently in Eastern Aleppo, Syria and the human effects of war. We also talk about refugees and contemplate the issue of remembering the downtrodden after their difficulties leave the headlines. We also bring the idea of remembering the downtrodden home to the United States as we hear clips of conversations with three homeless men.
Music from this episode included:
The song Fanfarl by Titus 12. Music by the artist can be found at the below site
In this clipisode Dave from Sandpoint, Idaho talks about the transition in life he and his wife have been engaging in to get back to the basics. He shares some of the things he and his wife have been doing to work with their hands, use the resources naturally available around them, and a profound moment of awakening to the need to get back in touch with nature and by extension ourselves.
Most of us know someone that has dealt with an addiction to some substance. It can be incredibly challenging as family and friends to watch the lives of those loved ones revolve around their beloved substances. It becomes the priority. Dashed hopes, disappointment and sorrow seem to go hand-in-hand with drugs and alcohol.
In talking with Mike, he showed the sunny shores on the other side of addiction. It probably goes without saying that life would probably be a lot easier to not deal with an addiction, but what is so remarkable about Mike’s story is how many people he’s been able to help as a result of making the decision to get clean 14 years ago. It is his beautiful boon; his blessing that he can be a guide and example to others in his family as they’ve had to navigate the choppy waters of their own recoveries from addictions.
One of the goals of Reflection is to share with other people what many of us consider the dark corners of our lives. So often we hide our imperfections, afraid that it will diminish what others on the outside will think of us. Yet Mike profoundly demonstrates the power of being vulnerable about our weaknesses. How do we expect to help each other if we don’t share how we’ve each overcome difficult times in our lives? Mike’s story is one that we all need to hear. Life is about our imperfections and overcoming them. We are a better human community when we share our weakest moments and seek help in getting out of them or share how we did it.
What touched me is how powerful Mike felt to me as we sat around the dinner table and talked. I have had my life directly impacted by others with drug and alcohol addictions. To some degree, I understand that those addictions are not just simply overcome. Yet Mike’s life brought him a measure of strength needed to do such a tremendously difficult thing. But with that strength there was a deep sense of humility. So much of addiction recovery is faith based. Whatever the belief of anyone overcoming a challenge, the ability to look outside one’s self is paramount. New perspective and a fresh view empower us to change for the better.
As per usual, I just want to give a little more background for episode 3. I had the chance to couch surf at Alan’s home in San Diego. Immediately it was clear that he is a very kind and welcoming person. He was gracious enough to let me ask him a few questions about his life.
While the clip in this episode focuses on his decision as a child to become a Lutheran pastor and the journey that took him to the realization of that decision, Alan shared a lot more about himself. It would be really easy to make Alan out as this one dimensional person: Alan the Pastor. Though we only had a grand total of a few hours around each other, it was clear that he is a complex and well rounded person. His identity is multiple.
As we talked about his time as a pastor, Alan illuminated a passion for people. His work as a pastor enabled him to articulate moving thoughts to his congregation and support them in their lives. Clearly it suited him in a variety of ways to have spent several decades of his life working for the people of a small Wisconsin town. Yet Alan is the type of person that is aware and open to new things. He spoke of retiring and realizing soon after that his presence may make the transition to the new pastor more difficult than it needed to be. A series of experiences and considerations brought him to San Diego.
What is so striking about Alan is that he is full of youthful vigor for life and people. Retirement isn’t about making it a time for him to be self-serving and collecting what he earned. He emanates character. The genuine nature that I’m sure was a hallmark of his ministry as a pastor continues to be an ever-present part of his life. This came into full view as he described his experience getting into hosting couch surfers. He relishes the opportunity to have a variety of people from all over the world stay in his home. He shared many stories while I stayed with him about various people that he’s hosted. And those connections have led him all over the world to places he noted he never imagined going to. Yet connection to others has led him all over the world.
I felt privileged to have crossed paths with such a balanced and welcoming human being that is just curious about life. I’ve actually borrowed from him as a tagline something he said as we spoke: “Everyone has a story. Everyone’s story is interesting. Everyone’s story is important.” I couldn’t agree more.