Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Loss, Presence and Presents

While I’m not a packrat in general, you could probably accuse me of being a wall-pack rat. 

I can remember my bedroom when I was 12 or so, every possible inch covered with posters of Dr. Kildare/Richard Chamberlin and Peanuts characters. My decorative trait stuck with me.
So it’s no surprise that Tillie, my motorhome for the past 9 years, has been decorated inside and out to make a statement. Outside, my HEAR US presence—the blatant reminder that over 1.7 million kids are homeless in the US. Inside, well, a more personal statement to/about me, the (mostly) lone occupant. 

I'm in the process of further downsizing, with Tillie2 being readied for my next round of travel. And I'm selling Tillie, hopefully soon, to be ready for my new, more concise, fuel-efficient wheels due to arrive by the end of August. So strip the walls I must...but not without plenty of reflection. 

Perhaps the image I turned to most was this—a photo I had taken of a hot air balloon with a quote that has continued to remind me that what I’m doing makes sense despite moments of despair. 
It is simple. We are where we should be, doing what we should be doing, otherwise we’d be somewhere else doing something else…. (anonymous) 
Yup, I needed reminders like that. I’ve spent these last years doing what even I thought was crazy—chronicling the dreadful (and growing) reality of family and youth homelessness in America, the country that used to inspire nations to want to be like the U.S.

But I digress…this is a personal blog, not one for my societal rants. 

Here's a clip (CLICK here 3-min video) of my inside mementos that kept me company because some of you might be curious (and because I won't be able to display them in Tillie2). But let me comment on just a few of the images and items....

In my first not-knowing-what-the-hell-I-was-doing year, 2005-06, I interviewed 75 kids from across the country. I asked them to share what it was like to not have a home, and what school meant to them.  

A 7-year-old girl named Lacey had plenty to say. Trouble was, fledgling filmmaker that I was, I didn't have the wherewithal to keep the camera pointed in the right direction and rolling. I did get lucky, and for anyone who’s seen My Own Four Walls, my documentary, you can recall her saying “I have to make new friends,” and her unmistakably sad sigh. 

Lacey gave me her heart, well, just half of it. It’s a rubbery thing probably out of a vending machine. It says “Best” and the other half, which she kept, says “Friend.” She's 16 now. Wonder what her life has been like?

The other part of this task that got to me was pulling down the photos in my bedroom. Head shots of special people were clothes pinned to a draped string on 3 sides of the room. Family. Friends. Personal. 

As I unclipped and dusted each one, I held that person in my heart. Some—my Mom, Dad, and sis Patty, along with Aunt Catherine and cousin Christi—have died. Some are struggling with heavy stuff. Some are doing OK. I felt connected with spirits of all, dead and alive.

My life has been pretty soft compared to many people I know. My heart has been dinged by loss enough so I can at least, I hope, relate to—or at least bear witness to—the vast sadnesses of my houseless, disenfranchised sisters and brothers along my path. 

I’m gearing up for Tillie2 and my next unknown route. I’ve learned lots more than I can express in these past years of incredible experiences and travel. I’ve been loved much more than I (sometimes) think I deserve. I’ve grown from a nomad to a pilgrim. 
To journey without being changed, is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and to be transformed by the journeying is to be a pilgrim.  Mark Nepo 
One thing I’ve figured out—I don’t know what’s ahead. But I do know it will be interesting, and worthwhile. So, please travel along with me…if you can stand doing Facebook you’ll get the daily update (and more, which you can pass over or not). 

Your presence is important…to me and to those whose hope is desperately attached to the possibility that our nation, our communities, ourselves, will move toward the ideal that everyone needs a place to call home. 

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