Archive for December, 2010


Of Homelessness and Human Trafficking

National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month begins January 1st as officially proclaimed by the President. You’ve probably even got an “Event” invite on Facebook about it. What bothers me is that the President never mentions homelessness.  Of course, why should he when most human trafficking organizations and nonprofits mostly focus on the victims of global sex trafficking, mainly featuring the stories of foreign children.

While that is a real definite need, there’s not a day/night that goes by when I’m out on the streets that I don’t run into someone homeless who is/has been a victim of trafficking.  For them, it’s a constant fear and a reality that looms around every corner.  Yet it’s looked over again and again. I wonder why that is?  Is it easier to focus on the victims whose pictures we see on the internet than it is to focus on the needs of those homeless outside we pass by everyday? We constantly want people to see and hear the stories of the survivors of human trafficking yet we fail to see and hear our neighbors who live on the streets of our city.

The President fails to realize that human slavery is a systemic issue, much like chronic homelessness.  Of course the US government has pledged to end by 2015 and end all other forms of homelessness by 2020.  What a joke.

No wonder he doesn’t talk about poverty and homelessness, after all the government is just gonna solve it all in a few years.
It must make everyone feel better.  This way no one has to worry about it or do anything or see anyone.  After all it’s just stories and statistics.

By the way, you can take my word on it, after all I’m an advocate now, I’ve posted a blog and made a tweet.  That means I really care.  I even bought a t-shirt once.


The Story of the Buffalo

For those that have asked why and for those that don’t even know: I’ve got a new tattoo.

As to the why, I leave that to following post from friend Ken Loyd and his awesome blog:

“The ancient buffalo lifted his scarred (metaphorically speaking in the sense of life lived on it’s own terms. Probably no real scars to speak of and besides they would be hidden under really really thick facial hair anyway so you wouldn’t be able to see them even if you wanted to) , grizzled, shaggy, white head and surveyed, through still clear, say, 25/20, eyes, the verdant plain that lolled languidly before him…”

I’m entering a contest to produce the worst first sentence for a book. How’s that one? How can I tweak it to make worse, I mean, reallybad?

There is a story here, though: I once saw a photo of a buffalo taken in the dead of winter in Yellowstone. He (she? How do you tell when the snow up is beyond…well, you know what I mean) had steam pouring from its nostrils, icicles dangling from its beard (beard? A guy! No, they all have beards) and a bad attitude. “I hate this shit,” as it put one foot in front of another. I knew, somehow, in that instant about thirty years ago, that I was that buffalo. Only recently did I discover that in Native American culture that buffalo symbolize safety, strength, spiritual wisdom and guidance.

About two weeks ago, I found myself in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina with a group of some of the most amazing and endearing people I’ve ever met. They were from all over the world and each had accomplished incredible things in the area of Christian ministry. Anytime, anywhere, they gather; I want to be there.

Late in the week, I had an appointment with the Great Leader of this accomplished bunch. It took all the courage I could muster just to show up, but show up I did. He was on the phone but acknowledged my presence with a nod and went into the house through the slider. I sat down in the warm sun on the porch and waited.

After several minutes it began to leak into my consciousness that he wasn’t coming back to be with me. So, mindful meditator that I am (actually, trying to be), eyes closed, I began to breathe in the Buffalo and breathe out the Forgotten Child who lives deep inside. Exhilaration…The Buffalo emerged into my being! Then, slowly, quietly at first, my breathing took on the gulps and gasps of a little boy trying desperately not to cry. Bug-eyed, tears streaming down my cheeks…the Forgotten Child resumed his rightful place in my life-shattered heart.

Was I wronged by a callous man/system with no regard for a little guy from Portland, Oregon? Nope. Scheduling error. We had our time together later. Gracious, kind, wise and warm would accurately describe him. Really tall, too. He showed up and met with the Forgotten Child who, by then, had completed the conquer of my soul.

Life lesson (for me): in that kind of setting the Forgotten Child will always emerge. My past, my brokenness, demand his presence. Will I go back to be with them or people like them? You bet I will! I had no issue with those wonderful people. The issue was mine alone. On the streets of downtown Portland, however, the Buffalo and the Forgotten Child in me walk together with our friends in The Land of Forgotten Children. That’s why it works for all of us.

My friends outside consider me their buffalo.  One of my friends who used to live outside (we’ve since gotten her into a co-housing group for people who were living outside that i helped start) said the following (sic): Well ya got the right tattoo then it suit you to tea……a match made in heaven….and here you are to watch us and be thair when we fall…and don’t know how to get going again…that why god has his angels here for all of us how are lost or not …Yes we have our BBUFFALO

My prayer is that I may live into this statement, and learn to hold the tension between being the buffalo and the Forgotten Child.  Whenever I struggle to keep going and not give up, my wife reminds me of this…of the strength and the love that too often lies hidden inside behind a wall of physical pain, emotional hurts, and spiritual struggles.  My wife sees the tension…she sees me…

This Christmas my wife surprised me with this:

Now if only I could convince myself…


December 2010
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