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30 Things to Do When 30

1. Throw banana split ice-cream social (done on August 24, 2012)

2. Pet a bunny (done on September 9, 2012)

3. Walk to church (done on September 23, 2012)

4. Take Annalise and Elizabeth to Full Tilt (well, I’ve done half of this one)

5. Make a mosaic with Mari (done on October 14, 2012)

6. Pick apples in Washington and bake a pie with Jen (done on October 21, 2012)

7. Start blog (done on October 25, 2012)

8. Go snow shoeing (done on January 2013)

9. Start twitter for blog

10. Draft book

11. Host silent retreat

12. Do indoor skydiving

13. Go kayaking in the wild

14. Improve Spanish—find conversation partner (although in the last month I’ve been more inspired to learn some Nepali)

15. Cook Southern breakfast for RAC friends

16. Go abroad somewhere (besides Canada—though another visit or 2 there would be great too!)

17. Grow herbs

18. Take a trip to wine country with Seble

19. Go rock climbing outdoors (I heard off of Highway 42 is a good place for beginners)

20. Take a zumba class

21. Start Bible storytelling group

22. Visit Seattle glass art museum with Charity

23. Do a hard core trek/hike (Nepal?)

24. Read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetPrayer and Temperament and Jayber Crow

25. Watch Star Wars with Nate Jones and last Pirates of the Caribbean

26. Visit San Diego

27. Visit Eastern WA

28. Rent a jeep and go somewhere cool

29. Go surfing

30. Make cards-card-making party

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Hope for the Holidays: Hopelink, Seattle

lend a hoping hand

Walking or driving past people in transit, holding signs asking for food, or money, or work, I’m often caught between wanting to help yet not wanting to simply give a handout. Furthermore, I know that poverty exists here in my own neighborhood, that children go to bed hungry, that elderly residents may not be able to pay for heat. Aside from knocking on each door to personally (and embarrassingly) ask who has a need, how am I to find and assist with essential basic needs?

I was recently introduced to Hopelink, a local non-profit that doesn’t merely offer hand-outs, but also a hand-up. Their mission is stated simply: “To promote self-sufficiency for all members of our community.”  The community is, of course, King County, WA, where Hopelink has been in operation since 1971. Residents who receive assistance in order to become self-sufficient include:

  • Homeless
  • Elderly
  • Children
  • People with disabilities
hope link food bank

volunteers at Kirkland foodbank

From energy assistance to food and housing, Hopelink has designed multiple programs to help prevent homelessness and give families the resources they need during difficult economic times. Resources are provided in a way that allows an individual or caretaker in the family to receive help in a dignified fashion. For example, new toys and clothing are made available in the Gift Room (see below) in order that parents or caretakers can select which ones to give their children. The Employment Program helps individuals set goals, develop cover letters, create or revise resumes, develop networking skills, prepare for interviews, and all-around career development.

Volunteer

Want to plug into the community through meaningful service? Hopelink provides lots of volunteer opportunities! Teach ESL, serve at events, sort & stock food banks, tutor children, or transport residents who need to access community services. Hopelink requires all volunteers to pass a background check, attend an orientation training, commit to a minimum of 30 hours and 3 months of volunteering.

Hopelink Turkey Trot

Turkey Trot

Host An Event

In addition to volunteering, businesses and people in the community have formed a number of creative endeavors to help support Hopelink. For example, I was introduced to the nonprofit when I attended a free business workshop in which the presenter asked that a donation be given to Hopelink as compensation for her services. Yesterday, I received an Evite from a former classmate who is hosting a holiday party in lieu of her 6-year-old daughter. Together, they have decided to collect mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves for children in King County. Other fun ways that businesses and community members are raising resources for Hopelink include:

hopelink bag

Have extra food in your pantry?

An easy way to help is by simply filling a bag each month to donate to the foodbank. Hopelink has a special program called Bag-A-Month that sends people who sign up a monthly email listing current needs of the food bank. In December, they tend to need more of the following:

  • Cooking oil
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Baking items & mixes
  • Olives
hopelink winter
During the holiday season, especially, more people access the resources of Hopelink. Hopelink enables businesses, churches, and other service centers in the community to give set up Giving Trees.  Donors can choose tags with gift idea suggestions for children. You can alternatively contribute to a Gift Room where families can self-select new items to give their children.
I am glad to have discovered a local nonprofit that members of my community can go to in times of needs, and will be directing people to Hopelink if any of my neighbors report that they are struggling financially. For those who are well-supplied, I want to encourage them to consider volunteering, giving a holiday gift, providing a weekly bag of groceries, or creating an event or service package at their business that will help benefit all those who access the resources of Hopelink!

hopelink logo

Mini Vietnam

I had felt as if primarily two options lay before me: 1) community development advisor position in Vietnam or 2) relocate to an international neighborhood of my own city and learn how to do community development through a local church there. God made it pretty obvious that I was to do the latter, but didn’t entirely dissolve the first interest. We not only share our house and kitchen with a Vietnamese family, but a brief walk about the neighborhood will demonstrate that a number of people from Vietnam also relocated to this part of the city. Here’s a peak at some of the markers:

Ben Thanh

van loi

Saigon printing

Saigon printing

Saigon printing

pho bakVietnamese mural

inside Asian supermarket

inside Asian supermarket

New Hood

I feel as if the explorer in me has been suppressed living in the same place for 3 years. Relocating to a more internationally-diverse neighborhood has released her again! During the past 3 years, my body has been in Seattle but my heart and mind have been in Bangladesh. My drive was all geared towards how I could get back there. But instead of launching me in the direction I was facing, God threw open the backdoor and showed me a world that was in my backyard.

community bench

bus stop bench

law firm and nail salon

law firm and nail salon

multi-cultural mural

multi-cultural mural

Service Center

Community Service Center

inter-religious prayer house

inter-religious prayer house

Fusion Story-telling

“I feel like you have so many talents and interests—perhaps they will all fuse someday soon,” a friend from my cohort wrote on a note card she gave me yesterday.

“People have told me that many times before,” I thought, still feeling divided in multiple directions.

That same evening at her birthday gathering, I had talked with one of this classmate’s friends, an Asian American.

“So you recently graduated?” she asked me.

“Yes.”

“What do you want to do now?”

Every time someone asks me that question I feel as if I give a different response. This is why I should never be a politician. However, my replies are based less on securing favors than they are on conveying my most recent ideas and inspirations such as creating social enterprises for refugees in the US, extending social enterprises with friends in Bangladesh, preventing and countering human trafficking, Bible translation, storytelling through writing, drama, documentary production, and social media.

Last night I emphasized storytelling. Earlier, while blending salsa for the party, I had been pondering the production of a documentary or drama about the plight of the indigenous people I had lived among in rural Bangladesh. I shared my ambition with this new acquaintance.  Then she recounted her family’s story.

“My parents were refugees from Laos,” she began. She told of how her grandfather had fought for Americans in the Vietnam conflict. Her parents had to flee as a result of the allegiance. Her mother was a teenager at the time and was not informed that they were leaving the country when she was told to pack for a trip to the city. They first relocated to a refugee camp in Thailand. While there, her teenage mother was nearly trafficked into the sex trade, but a taxi driver warned her of the men’s intent. After two years, they relocated to the US. Relatives from the camp dispersed to France, Australia, and other parts of the globe.

Reflecting on her story, I realized how her mother’s story represented a fusion of my varied interests: refugees, at-risk women, preventing human trafficking, story-telling. I recognized that global problems are less fragmented than I generally realized. Human trafficking exists in places such as refugee camps in Thailand due to disruptions caused by wars and conflicts. Refugees struggle either in camps or in reconstructing life in a foreign country due to the havoc created in their homelands. Often passionate people who address social causes such as war devastation and refugees and human trafficking and poverty, fail to realize how interconnected each is to the other. Storytelling through the lens of those who have experienced the horrors help us recognize this.

Happy May Day to our Neighbors

rehearsing at the house

rehearsing at the house

Mari leaving flowers on a neighbor's step

Mari leaving flowers on a neighbor's step

“You’re just in time for May Day!” my housemate announced.

I had forgotten she had plans to celebrate the day. Where I was raised in the Southern United States, people did not celebrate May Day. I have faint recollections of my mother who was raised in the northern Midwest helping us make paper May Day baskets to give to our friends who were grateful for the candy but perplexed by the purpose.

“What did you do on May Day as a child?” I asked my housemate and her friends who had gathered on our sunny back step.

“We left flowers on peoples’ doorsteps, rang the doorbell, then ran and hid.”

Today’s festivities would also involve flowers, but rather than hiding, we would serenade the recipients with live music. Our repertoire consisted the classics “You Are My Sunshine” and “Keep on the Sunny Side of Life”, a teddy bear garden song, and our own rendition of “Happy May Day” sung to the tune of “Happy Birthday”.

Roaming Band

Roaming Band

 

Sunshine seemed to have improved neighbors’ reception to our songs, in contrast to Christmas caroling when several people shut the door on us or yelled they were in the shower. About halfway through our escapade, neighbors began directing us to the next house.

“Go across the street. They’re having a party in the backyard and will love it!”

“Visit the blue house with the white trim. They just had a baby and will want to hear some music.”

“Make sure you visit the yellow house on the corner. The widow who lives there recently lost her husband.”

Following their leads resulted in warm receptions and free beverages at two barbecues with an invite to dinner at the latter. One man followed us out to the sidewalk and explained how he was a historian who was excited to see people commemorating a mostly forgotten holiday. Another woman informed us that a neighbor on our street had called her upon arriving home and discovering the flowers we left on her doorstep. She had been to a parade commemorating her late husband and finding the flowers when she returned had been a special gift to her.

“They don’t like me going in there”

mr anderson

“Buy any 10 participating Gatorade 32-oz. bottles at 10 for $10 club price get 5 more FREE” the coupon read.
I had just exited the grocery store and noticed Gatorade on sale, then remembered my coupon in the glove-box. I like to keep Gatorade in my car to give homeless people I encounter. When I first moved to Seattle, I generally lowered my eyes and ignored homeless people holding signs. Then my parents from out-of-state visited me and, as outsiders, made me aware of this population. In Bangladesh, I rarely gave beggars money, opting instead to buy them a snack or distribute packages of crackers. I decided in Seattle I would distribute Gatorade.
I returned to the store to purchase the on-sale Gatorade and a couple other items for which I had coupons, but decided I was too tired to extend the effort of collecting groceries and standing in line again.

As I left the store, a middle-aged man and an elderly woman sitting next to the door stopped me.
“Could you spare some change for food?” the woman asked.
“What kind of food do you want?” I asked.
“Oh, anything. A sandwich and a soda.”
“How about Gatorade?”
“That would be good,” the woman said rising.
“Oh, do you want to come in and show me what you would like?”
“I had better not,” she said, sitting again. “They don’t like me going in there.”

Inside I grabbed two 32-oz bottles of Gatorade and selected 2 sandwiches from the cold meat section for $2.99 each. Then I remembered as a child my dad spoke of how construction workers could save more of their earnings had they bought a loaf of bread and sandwich meat or peanut butter rather than purchasing daily meals from a gas station. I returned the sandwiches and decided to stretch the $6. I picked up two packages of sliced meat, a loaf of bread, a can of Peter Pan peanut butter, and Welches grape squeeze jelly. Considering they may lack a knife, I searched unsuccessfully for a squeeze version of peanut butter then scanned the deli, bakery, and Starbucks for a plastic utensil, but found none.

As I waited to checkout, the words “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” rang through my head. From my graduate education, I have learned to intellectually criticize efforts like the one I was making. I could easily dismiss such acts as stemming from a Messiah-complex or a need to feel needed. I could tell myself that there are superior methods for tackling this social problem in a more systemic fashion. Yet I still have trouble refusing a hungry person food. Jesus taught that feeding a hungry person is like nourishing Him. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink (Matthew 25:35a).

When I handed the groceries to the man and woman, they thanked me profusely.

“I’m sorry I don’t have a utensil for the peanut butter,”

“Don’t worry about it.”

I found a packaged plastic fork in my car and offered it.

“You can use the handle as a knife,” I suggested.

“Thank you.” They laughed with me at the innovation.

I know people who are doing wonderful work among the homeless, tackling the root causes of their situation and helping them to find housing, work, and communities. Perhaps someday I will contribute more to such efforts. Yet whenever I encounter homeless people during my daily routines, the question I ask myself is, “Will I show this person a tiny bit of dignity by looking into their eyes as a human being and offering them something to eat or drink? Will I treat this person as Christ Himself, or will I overlook them in my busyness to bring about large-scale social change?”