The Last Month

July begins the final month of YAV. Just 4 more weeks until my YAV term has come to a close. Many people are asking about what reflections I have on this last year of my life. What am I taking with me?

But how do I sum up the last year of my life into a nice picture for everyone to see? How do I make all the moments make sense?  All the interactions with CHPRA clients, the days when I’ve come home from work exhausted and yet fulfilled, the moments of laughter with my housemates, the moments of deep raw emotion too. All the good, bad, draining, fulfilling, inspiring, loving, hard, and growth moments.

I don’t think I can sum up any year of my life into a conversation. Much less this one.

Living in Tucson for the last year has been so impactful.  So fulfilling.  So educational. So life changing.  

I can think of takeaways, but that phrase feels strange to me because that makes it seem like there is a concrete thing I am taking with me.  That isn’t how I feel at all.  I feel like I am leaving from this experience with a trail behind me that I have already walked and a trail in front of me. This is just a moment of change in the journey of my life, but not an ending.   

Thinking of this as a journey reminded me of “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.  A poem that I used to love when I was in high school. 

A camp I went to as a kid showed us a video every summer based around this poem. It was a classic at camp.  Many of us long time campers knew all the words.  The message of the film was that in order to curb global warming and have a good earth to live on, we need to take the road less traveled.  Go against the norm to “all the difference.”

That is the message that I am reflecting on most as my YAV experience is coming to an end.  I don’t want to go to a post YAV life that is fitting into the norms of society. These norms uphold systemic inequalities and I don’t want to be passive in these systems. 

It seems like most people would agree that there is a lot of brokenness everywhere right now.  But that brokenness doesn’t just fix itself.  It requires work through analysing biases and injustices on personal and systemic levels. And it requires the work of going against the grain.  Being open to new ideas.  Refusing to participate in this brokenness.  

The road less traveled isn’t easy but it is so worth it to have human rights and equality for everyone.

I believe we need radical changes to have justice for all people. And that requires all of us taking the road less traveled.  We all have to go against these norms and put in the time to create a better world for each other.  Post YAV, that is exactly what I want to do.  My takeaway is the same one that I learned at camp as a teenager: keep taking that road less traveled because it does make a difference.  And that difference is needed.

Why Us?

In February, the Tucson YAVs were asked to lead a worship service. The topic for that Sunday was “Dismantling Structural Racism.” I felt vastly under prepared and uncomfortable to be standing in front of people talking about racism. But as I thought of what I wanted to say and worked with fellow YAVs to flesh out the service, I chose to embrace this discomfort.

I am still feeling discomfort. Talking about race is hard and I am constantly worried I am going to mess up. Race discussions force me to face the systematic injustice happening all around me every day. It makes me not be able to ignore the pain, fear, injustice that is what our society is built upon.

Below is what I wrote and for that sermon on Dismantling Structural Racism. It feels especially pressing this week as we have heard of another black man being murdered by police and the protests that turned to riots because of more police violence. My heart hurts.

I hope you read this. But before you continue reading, I have one request. If you have yet to listen to the voice of a black person on the current happenings of police brutality and protests, close my blog right now and read from someone who lives under the oppression of white supremacy every second of every day. Black voices matter more than mine. This video is a great place to start.

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It is easy to question Why should we be so wrapped up in these issues of racism? There are other issues to fight for as well.  So why is Dismantling Structural Racism a key part of the Matthew 25 vision?  Why should we care more about issues of race than issues of the environment, or women’s rights or LGBTQ inclusion?

While it can be easy to fall into these ideas,  I have to remind myself that racial discrimination is much farther reaching than other forms of prejudice.  All others are impacted by race and ideas of white supremacy.

For example, I am a woman.  I am queer.  Both of these identities have given me my own experiences of prejudice. But I carry both of these identities with the intersection of white skin, which carries many privileges independently of the others.  

As a woman, I experience all the way too common things like getting nervous going places on my own at night or anxiety about being in solo in close proximity with a male stranger. I get told how to dress and act and judged for not falling into the mold that our white supremacy society set for us. 

Since working at CHRPA, my womanhood has been an ever more pressing issue because I am working in a male-dominated field where strangers frequently tell me their unsolicited opinions on women doing manual labor.  Additionally, while home for Christmas, I had to have a conversation with my grandmother to convince her that my daily physical work isn’t “ruining my ovaries” and hear her concerns about me not being able to have a family in the future.  One of my brothers, who also does a labor intensive job, has never had to be questioned on if he will still be able to have a family later in life due to his work now.  

While I am able to find some of these encounters and conversations amusing in hindsight, I hate that I have to invest time and energy navigating people’s opinions of my identity.  Time an energy that straight people and men get to spend in other ways if they choose to.  I am tired of educating people about queer and women’s rights, just like many other queers and women are.  

The weight of this exhaustion really hit me when I was questioning why we were being asked to talk about race today.  Our YAV coordinator Alison responded by asking us “well who do you think should be talking about it?” I didn’t have an answer.

Someone more qualified?  Someone who knows what they are talking about?  I certainly don’t know what I am talking about.

As a white person,  I benefit from so many privileges.  I don’t have to put in extra time and energy to wonder how my race plays a role in my everyday life and interactions.  I don’t have to think daily about ways to talk about white privilege.  

This energy that we don’t have to spend on those thoughts and conversations allow us the privilege to devote our time and energy to other things.  We get to choose how to use this time.  One option is to give that energy to fighting the racist structures all around us.  To up ending white supremacy.  To having the hard conversations because non-white people have been doing all the work for far too long.  It is time we join them.  Not to do it for them, but to be present with them in this struggle.

Additionally, our privilege gives us more power.  We have more of a say as white people.  That is how this system of white supremacy works.  White people have more sway with elected officials and have a greater chance of being elected to those offices.  White people can stand up against these systems with less of a fear of being attacked by law enforcement or imprisoned.  White people speaking up in a group is considered a protest while frequently black people speaking up in a group is considered a riot.  

There is a double standard and as white people we can use that to work toward ending structural racism.

I don’t want that to be read as supporting the ideas of white saviorism.  I don’t think that white people should be leading this fight.  We are not able to lead the resistance when we don’t experience oppression.  But we should be present, and using the stance that we have as people of privilege to advance the fight to more people.  

Similarly, I feel called by the idea of “doing for the least of these” as Jesus said. Just becasue I am queer and a woman, I dont’ get to step back from the issues of race by thinking that I have my own battles to fight.  There is an intersectionality to oppression where I hold more privilege as a white woman than a black woman does.  We both experience sexism but in vastly different ways.

For example, while I do worry about my safety, I get to worry less about it than women of color.  4 out of 5  Indigenous women experience violence and they have a 10% greater chance of  being murdered than the national average.  Additionally, if I experience violence, I have a much higher chance of law enforcement actually caring than the murdered indigenous women do.  This is a huge issue in our country that too many people aren’t talking about.  If you don’t know about this crisis, I strongly encourage you to read more about it here.

But these acts of violence, the difference in treatment between us as White people versus the treatment of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) isn’t how it is supposed to be.  Ephesians 2 says: 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.

God makes things new.  Our creator made us as one human body, one community.  But the history of the human race has defiled the plan by our creator.  If our goal as a church is to be like Christ, then we have to do this reconciling work too.

I have spent the last couple weeks asking “Why are we talking about this at church? Why me? Am I qualified for this?  Aren’t there better people to be talking about this than me? What do I know?” 

But if not us then who? Who should be talking about this? Cause BIPOC are tired of talking about this.  They have been fighting this oppression from white people for centuries. They think about white supremacy every day. Because they can’t not think about it.  As white people, we are comfortable sitting in the world that has been built to favor white skin. 

To be a Church engaged in the world and to reconcile all human beings as God’s creation, we need to get comfortable challenging the ideas of white supremacy.  Comfortable speaking up for the oppressed.  Because if we aren’t speaking up for the oppressed, then we are standing in silence with the oppressors, and I no longer feel that I can stand for that as a person of faith.  

Why us? Why are we as white people talking about this? Because we have the power, time, and energy to do something about it.  So we need to be talking to our neighbors, our representatives, our families about these issues of injustice against our black and brown siblings in Christ.  We need to be sitting and learning from black, indigenous and people of color.  Most importantly, we need to do something. Something to make the reconciliation that Jesus called for a reality.

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A good resource of where to start: 75 things white people can do for racial justice

Feeling awkward about talking about race? Me too. Nadia Bolz Webber has good things to say about that.

More Than Just a Toilet

Toilet replacements are unpredictable.  Sometimes it is simple, take one out, put one in, no worries. Other times there are many more steps such as repairing the floor.  Or fixing the flange.  Or replacing the water shut off valve.  All of these involve many extra steps and materials

Vernon, another CHRPA volunteer, and I embarked on a toilet replacement job one Thursday afternoon not knowing what we would find.  Upon walking into the small bathroom, we were relieved to find that all seemed to be in good shape. This could be a simple replacement of the toilet, with no extra steps needed. 

I detached the existing toilet while Vernon brought the new one in from the van.  In no time, we had the old one out and the new one set in place.  I knelt over it to tighten the bowl to the floor.  The left bolt was tight and the right one was almost there.  I thought to myself “2 more turns of the nut should get it tight” but on that second turn, I heard an unexpected sound. “POP!”  

Oh no…

The bolt on the right side had come loose under the toilet… to fix that required removing the toilet bowl, re-securing the bolt, and putting the toilet back on, hoping it worked the second time.  Vernon’s experience and ingenuity helped us.  He secured the bolt that had come loose with an extra washer.  We put the toilet back in place. Vernon tightened the pesky bolt on the right as we held our breath, hoping this time it would work.  It did!  But as he tightened the bolt on the left, we heard that same, unwanted sound… “POP!”

The bolt on the left had come loose.

By this point the small bathroom was hot.  Every minute that passed I seemed to notice more of how tiny the space was.  We had been in there about an hour and a half. We were tired after a long week of repairs and very ready for the weekend to begin.

But we couldn’t just leave it.  So again we removed the toilet… Vernon put an extra washer on that bolt as well and we set the toilet back in its place for a third time.  

Vernon tightened the bolts while I crossed my fingers and prayed it would stay secure.  Luckily, the third time really was the charm. Feeling grateful for those extra bolts, we got everything hooked up and running.

As we cleaned up our tools, I felt frustrated by how long it took us to do that job.  I was just happy it was done and I could get ice cream when I returned to the office, I grabbed the file out of the truck to get the client’s signature before leaving.  

Inside the house, I told them about the mishaps we encountered and explained why I had needed to go in and out of the house about five times to grab more tools and supplies from the truck.  

Our client laughed with me and then told me. “My 4 year old granddaughter who is playing in the other room saw you coming in and out. She said ‘how can a girl be fixing the toilet?’ with a confused look on her face.  I told her that girls can do anything.  That she can do anything.  You are an example of that for her.”

Abi and Haley, two of my co-workers doing great work! More women should have power tools.

I didn’t know how to respond.  I was sweaty and tired, but those few sentences reminded me how life giving it is to do this work and how grateful I am to have wonderful people at CHRPA to teach me the tools of the trade.  I felt grateful to all the women who have empowered me to do whatever I dream of, knowing that nothing will hold me back. I felt humbled to be this example for a child.

As we drove away, I still felt frustrated. I was still ready for my ice cream.  But I also was smiling because I knew that that girl might just believe in herself and her dreams a little bit more, just from seeing me carry a toilet. 

Let’s Imagine

How do we change the world?

In Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, adrienne marie brown makes a wonderful point about the ways we can use science fiction writing as a way to imagine what the future world could be like.  What we could change to create the world we want. She sees science fiction writing as an act of resistance.

I love this idea!  And I love spending time daydreaming about what the future could be.  My future, the world’s future. Being focused on what’s next is part of my nature as a 7 on the Enneagram.  

Because my world has slowed down during this pandemic is giving me lots of time to think and dream.  My thoughts have been very focused on what the world will look like after this pandemic passes, whenever that may be.  Many people are asking how to get back to normal, but what even is normal and why do we want that?  

What I see as normal, thanks to watching many videos and reading articles (listed below) to educate my opinion, was completely broken to begin with.  This system of capitalism, competition, and corporations aren’t helping people. Many people work tirelessly to make ends meet and when they don’t meet because of so many things working against lower and middle class people, it is the people that have failed, not the systems.  

But the systems are failing.  They have been failing many people for a long time, but the Coronavirus has amplified these failures.  

Systemic failure is why a disproportionate number of black and brown people are dying from the virus.  It is why there isn’t enough PPE in hospitals. This broken, capitalistic system is why there is even talk “restarting the economy” when it isn’t safe to leave your house without a mask on your face.  Because capitalism tells us that profits matter more than people. It has always been this way, but that is at the forefront of conversations recently.

So, I have no desire to return to that version of normal.  Because none of that should be normal.

Instead I am going to do daydreaming about changes that can happen.  I hope these changes include Universal Healthcare and paid sick leave.  Better transportation systems that help the earth live. Business practices that are focused on people instead of how to make the most money.

This world also needs to include liberation from the power of white supremacy and colonialism.  A world without borders of empire. That’s one of my favorite thoughts. It was inspired by this video. A great quote I heard today “Equality says we should all get a piece of the pie. Liberation says we need a new pie.”

I think it is evident that big change is necessary. But what does a better world look like? A more liberated one? This is a great time to imagine what we want to return to and what is best left out.

How do we change the world? We can start by imagining what is possible. So let’s imagine together!

Some resources for further education that helped form my ideas:

The Myth of “Productivity”

Today marks the beginning of week two of self-isolation for the Tucson YAV house. Last week, because of COVID-19, none of us went to work. We all worked from home as best we can, but for me, it is difficult to do home repairs for others while I staying in my own home.

Because I have so much free time these days, my plan for not working was to do some reading, writing, learning new skills, and completing personal tasks that had been put on the back burner for a while. I was ready to have a “productive” week.

But what does that even mean?

I made a daily schedule. That overwhelmed me. Even though I had at least a week of time to accomplish my list, it felt like too much to get done. Also, what if one or two of the days I was tired and didn’t want to do what I had laid out on my schedule… What if this time didn’t accomplish everything I expected it to?

This year has challenged my idea of productivity. I have always thought of a productive day as one where I turn a to-do list into a to-done list. A productive conversation is one where there is a set outcome and action steps decided, right?

But that is a version of productivity that doesn’t work for me any more. Honestly, I think the modern American version of “productivity” is fake.

As a YAV house, we have weekly community check ins. Sometimes these meetings address specific issues: budgeting, community chores, schedules etc. But other times we take time to have conversations that are really needed, but don’t have a defined out come. We talk about how each of us is doing, how we are feeling about our community, work, and families. Some times there are lots of laughs during this and other times it is more serious. All of this is good. All of this is necessary. All of this is productive.

A few weeks ago, while building a ramp one day for a CHRPA client, we sat down for a lunch break. Usually this takes about 30 minutes, but that day, the client’s caregiver struck up a conversation and we sat and talked for close to an hour. He also talked to us as we were working.

Sure, this slowed us down, if we were more focused and worked faster, we could have gotten farther along on that days project. But every moment of that day was fruitful. We engaged shared stories and engaged in community building, which is always good.

But what about times where there is nothing that gets done. No conversations. No tasks accomplished. Just stillness.

My recent experience with that was a desert sojourn retreat. I spent 3 days and 2 nights camping alone in the desert with only a journal and a bible with me to keep my occupied. While I could have read the Bible the whole time or journaled for hours on end, I didn’t. Most of the 54 hours I spent alone, I simply sat and stared. I looked at the world around me. I took moments to just breath. Moments to appreciate how small I am in comparison to the world and to reflect on what my role is in the world. And I read the book of John. But that is all that I did in more than two days time! And it was wonderful!

So I am holding on to that now as I launch into week two of not going to work at CHRPA and not being able to leave the house much. I am going to check in with myself to know what I need. To try to get some things done as they can happen, but to also give myself a lot of grace in what is accomplished. And to have time to enjoy stillness and peace around me, even if it is just for a few moments.

I’m sure many of you are trying to be “productive” in this strange time too, but I hope that you will also consider what that means and allow yourself grace as well. And try to find some stillness in these crazy times. Stay well friends!






Side note: If anyone would like to say hi to us Tucson YAVs or know someone who wants to know more about the YAV program, we are having daily virtual brunches everyday! We are happy to have individuals or groups to talk with! You can sign up here: https://doodle.com/poll/4xkbnhq8tbpgmbwx

I am a Migrant

Two weeks  after being in Tucson I went to a dinner event. While there I was sitting at a table with four people around my age and one older man. The older man asked every person at that table where they were from except he skipped over me. 

It was uncomfortable not being asked because I had been in the city for two weeks while everyone else had either lived in Tucson their whole life or a large portion of it. The man asking questions and I were the only white people at the table and the only two people who didn’t have to say where we were from.  Being white, it was assumed by him that we belong. Even though in this instance, I most definitely didn’t belong.  And even 7 months later, I still don’t belong.

I am a migrant.  I don’t belong in Tucson. I don’t belong to this city and this city doesn’t belong to me.  I am just a temporary resident. But I don’t get questioned about this. In general, it is acceptable for me to be here, whether permanently or temporarily because I am white and I have a US passport.

The US side of the border wall, and the excessive use of sharp wire to deter attempts to cross the 20ft steel barrier.

In claiming an identity as a migrant, I have began to wonder many things.

Why am I not called a migrant?  I am praised for moving and traveling. I am told that I am “adventurous and brave.”  But the people I have met who have to wait in Mexico while they petition for asylum are braver than me. I am not brave enough to move to a new country even though I have the choice, yet these people don’t have a choice.  Their only option is asylum and they have endured much more than I have. They are brave and have taken a big journey in hopes of a safer and better life.

Why is it beautiful and amazing for the Monarch butterfly to migrate across North America every year but its not ok for humans to do the same? Butterflies don’t need to be documented.  There are no restrictions on where they can go and how they can live their lives.  Why do humans need that?

Am I a migrant that is “here to take people’s jobs”? The YAV program works hard to ensure that we are volunteering in supportive roles that wouldn’t be filled by locals were we not here, but where is the guarantee?  I am only in Tucson to work for a year and leave. But it’s socially acceptable for me to do this. If I were born in Mexico would it still be acceptable?  

Why am I “legal?” Why can I travel 2,200 miles to be here in Tucson to work only for a year, while many people from the state of Sonora, Mexico (Arizona’s southern border) can’t travel the mere 150 miles to live in Tucson.  Or even visit family and friends for a day. Many Sonoran’s would be considered “illegal” if they were in this city, but it is much closer to their home than mine.  

Why can’t we all be free? Free to move and live.  Free to work and be in places where our lives aren’t in danger.  Why do we have borders and walls restricting the movement of people and animals?  Movement that has been happening before recorded history. Movement on land that doesn’t even belong to white people to begin with.  

Why do I get to migrate? What is the difference between myself and the migrant many are fighting against other than my skin color and my nationality?

I have so many questions and so few answers.  The more I seek the less I find. But I don’t want to stop seeking and questioning the injustices toward too many migrants in my country.

YAVs on our most recent trip to Agua Prieta. People standing on both sides of the wall following a bi-national bible study.

Flash Blog #2

Yesterday we traveled back to Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico for the day. We were traveling with one of the Co-Moderators of the General Assembly, so the point of this visit was for her to experience the borderlands. What is happening and how the Presbyterian Church is responding.

Because of the delegation that we did in November and other various experiences I have had while here, much of what we were talking about yesterday wasn’t new to me. At one point I was even questioning what I was getting out of this. “What is the point in me being here today?”

Our last stop of the day was at CAME, a shelter for migrants to stay in while they wait to make their assylum petition. I had been in this shelter before and heard about the good work taking place there, but yesterday, in a few moments of downtime, I was drawn to a mural painted on the wall that I hadn’t seen before.

The mural was of “La Bestia” a train that travels regularly from southern to northern Mexico. It is a common way for migrants to travel. The mural depicted migrants sitting atop the train and with them sat Jesus.

He wasn’t doing anything other than sitting and being present with the people on the train. Being present is part of what Jesus asks us to do and that is what is happening at CAME.

But what struck me more was how many different versions of the human experience there are. When I think of people catching a ride on the roof of a train, I think of the 1920s or earlier. That doesn’t feel like a 21st century thing to me.

The point of me being in Agua Prieta yesterday may not have been to be exposed to 100 new things and challenging ideas like it has been the last few times I have visited the city. But I can still learn and recognize that the people sitting in the tents along the border, the people doing puzzles and waiting for dinner at CAME, the people on La Bestia currently all have vastly different life experiences than I do in life.

The moments of looking at this mural brought me back to the reality that I am privileged to be born a white woman from in the United States. I carry that privileged with me everywhere I go. And I need to open my heart more to embrace everyone in all of their experiences.

Taking time for the sunset

Sunsets are stunning in Tucson. It’s a well known fact that I was hearing about long before I arrived here in August. But that doesn’t change how much I am continuously amazed by them.

I recently heard from a former YAV that during her last month of YAVing, she made it a goal to watch the sunset every night. As a fellow lover of sunsets, this stuck in my brain and I recalled it last week at the same time that I was thinking about the fact that I have one month left until I turn 25.

Turning 25 has put me into a small quarter life crisis. I realized mere minutes into this year how old I would be. It isn’t so much of me thinking I’ll be old and questioning what I am doing with my life. It’s a time to reflect on life and joke about my grey hairs.

These feelings and the idea of taking time to watch the sunset merged in my head and left me asking, “Can I see 25 more sunsets before I turn 25?”

It’s been a little over a week since first posing that question and I have taken time to notice 5 sunsets, but to really sit and watch 3 of them.

Tonight as I sat on the front porch and watched the light outside dim, I thought of a few things.

Katie, Haley and I watching the sunset from a top A Mountain: A classic Tucson sunset spot

One was how it was nice to have a few minutes in the evening to sit, breathe, and enjoy nature. I have been thinking a lot about what spiritual practices I have or could have. One that was suggested to me was to take time to sit still and breathe. Is this moment of watching the sky change colors and reflecting on my day a spiritual practice? Maybe.

Another thought was of intentionality. That is a big part of the YAV experience. We are asked to embrace and intentional Christian community as a YAV group. And the practice of simple living involves making many intentional choices and having intentional conversations.

But sunsets are a different kind of intentional. For one, I cannot change when and how they happen. So if I want to watch it. I have to be ready and make that time. It is going to happen with or without me being present which is humbling. Additionally, I can choose to use that time to pause and think or I can use that time to notice the sky and keep moving. The choice to sit and notice has to be intentional. Not just with the sunset, but with all things happening around me.

Finally, I thought of change. It was amazing me that with every moment the sky looked different. I could look away for a just a moment, but when I looked back, there would be new colors.

This is comforting. It reminds me that in this broken world that we are all participating in, change is possible. It may not happen as quickly as the sunset colors change in the sky, but those quick, noticable changes only happen because the sun is moving slowly though the sky all day to get to that point.

The position of the sun is ever changing. So are we. Hopefully for the better.

I have 31 days until I turn 25. In that time, I will watch 22 more sunsets and be intentional about enjoying every one. And hopefully I can take time to reflect on what changes I wish to enact in my world in this coming phase of my life.

A post work sunset during my evening commute with my new bike (His name is Cadent. Yay!!)

A Dream of Peace

On Saturday I was tasked with writing a story about myself and peace. But I was anything but peaceful so I wrote about that and upon reflection thought that it was worth sharing on here:

As I am writing this, I am sitting outside.  The sky is a nice blue with few clouds. It was a warm day today, but is now getting cooler as the sun is going down.  I had a giant spoonful of chocolate chip cookie dough to help me start this blog. This all sounds peaceful, but I don’t feel at peace currently.

It has been a rough day. Last night, my bike was stolen while I was in the grocery store buying things for dinner with my housemates.  I came outside after being gone for less than 20 minutes and my bike was gone. Only the front tire remained. That’s not very helpful.  It was a long evening of stress and police reports.

Today, I was planning on accomplishing a lot, including writing a blog post, but that proved difficult.  I am anything but peaceful right now, so how can I write about anything on the topic of peace? 

I have been feeling lots of things throughout the day: anger, sadness, loss, hope, tiredness. But peace is so far from that list.  Come to think of it, I don’t know precisely when I last felt fully at peace. There are peaceful moments where I can sit and talk with a friend, or drink some tea, or cook food, but I am rarely at peace fully.  

Feeling at peace is hard for me right now because I want to constantly be doing something.  I see brokenness in the world around me. A world where my bike was stolen. I assume the motivation in the theft was to sell it for a profit.  I am also assuming that this is necessary because the capitalist world we live in has made it so that person cannot care for themselves well by other means.  Even if those assumptions aren’t true in this case, they apply to many other situations so well.

There is so little peace to be seen in the world.  There is so much pain for so many people. Peace is hard for me to find, but easy to dream about, so that is where I am starting.  Dreaming of a world of peace and if I can dream it, then I can take steps to make that happen. Right?

That is what I am choosing to believe and I want a community to help me achieve it.  So that maybe one day, even if it is generations from now, there can exist a world where we can all find peace inside us and around us. A world where bikes, food, land, people, or anything else won’t have to be stolen in order to survive.

All Souls Procession

On November 3 we were able to participate in the All Souls Procession: An annual Tucson event that, for almost 30 years, and is a beautiful space for creatively processing loss.

I was told that this is specifically a procession and not a parade because it is designed to be participated in rather than just observed.

The evening began with a celebration prior to the procession. The area where the procession was to begin was filled with food trucks, mariachi bands, and face painting. It was a joyful celebration.

Ruby, my fellow YAV, and I got our faces painted too!

When the procession began, we stood to the side of the road a watched the Urn pass by. This was a spherical container to collect written names of those who were being grieved. The Urn led the procession and was followed by groups and individuals showing their mourning in a variety of ways.

The woman who started this procession in 1990 did so as a way of publicly and artistically grieving the death of her father. This artistic foundation has continued and is evident throughout the event in the music, banners, and costumes.

Many of these costumes were black or white to represent grief. Some had skeletons on them and many people had sugar skull art on their faces. Lots of the costumes were also adorned with lights and bright colors.

Much like a parade, there were performers, bands, and church groups. It felt familiar, yet drastically different because every where I looked there was someone with stunning face paint of a sugar skull or a banner with images of someone who has died.

This group of people playing bagpipes and walking in the procession with their faces painted was my favorite part. As we walked the route they played Amazing Grace and many other songs.

But that was beautiful in every way. The idea of being able to publicly grieve and be in community with thousands of people in their mourning process was an incredible experience.

After watching for a while, were walked the two mile route with everyone as we all grieved. Even the many people just like me who didn’t make a sign for those that we love that have died were grieving.

I had time during that procession to reflect on times where I have been grieving. To remember dead friends and family in an intentional way. And more importantly, in that moment, I was able to acknowledge the importance of that grieving space.

Grief isn’t a process to get through and then check off as being done. It is on-going. During this event, the community grieved together for loved ones that have died both recently and many years ago.

Other people were grieving for groups who have died or are victim to injustices of the world. For example, there was a group that was grieving the thousands of migrant deaths in the Sonoran Desert due to inhumane border policies. There were others wearing Black Lives Matter shirts to acknowledge all of the black and brown people who have needlessly died.

The banner carried by a group mourning all the people who have needlessly died while migrating.

As I think of the grieving process, I think of how in moments of grief, both years ago and more recently, I have felt the need to keep my feelings internalized and put on a happy face for everyone around me. I feel lots of cultural pressure always show only my best self and grief doesn’t easily fit into that picture.

However, this public space of grieving made room for so many emotions. Everyone could celebrate the lives of loved ones and be sad that those people weren’t here to share in our daily lives anymore. And as a community there was support for everyone in each of our places of grieving.

At the end of the processional route, everyone gathered at to see the lighting of the Urn, which was full of written names and objects remembering all those who were being mourned that night. It was a meaningful and symbolic way to end the procession but not put a camp on the grieving process. And the celebration continued after with more painting faces, eating, and music because even in grieving there is still room for love and celebration.

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