Is it Simple to Change?

Português: Jim Parsons na Comic Con 2009
Image via Wikipedia
Goodwill Industries
Image via Wikipedia

I was just listening to a story on Marketplace about an organization called Simple. It’s a way to leave your bank and avoid a  lot of these horrible fees banks have been using to steal our money. Apparently the company gets money from banks to work in a more friendly way with their customers. These are mostly small banks that want a way to diffuse consumer anger. It’s a curious idea and I’m thinking about this.

I wrote this blog a few hours ago without knowing where I was going with it and I found that after a while I started realizing that the phrase “is it simple” was the key thing I was questioning. What was simple? And the more I went along, I started thinking about the character Jim Parsons plays on The Big Bang Theory.

What were the ways that I could explore change in my life and how had I resisted change? There were a few specific areas I thought about. I looked at the Goodwill stores and how the organization had changed over time.  I thought about my life and how I might be able to change it. And finally I wondered about the whole concept of change. It seems so ironic because I work with people on the question of change and I read an excellent book Changing For Good during an AODA class last spring.

Is there a lot of Goodwill available? I remember my family going to the Goodwill stores back in the 60s. Several years ago Goodwill got its maw stuck in honey jar by becoming a provider under the Wisconsin Works (W2) program that replaced welfare. Eventually Goodwill was forced to withdraw from W-2. Despite the bad publicity from the mess resulting from a series of missteps Goodwill had created a wall between the W2 program and its other operations.

The streets are full of ads promoting shopping at Goodwill as a fashion place. I went to a store on the east side of Milwaukee and purchased two pairs of running shoes for which I receive compliments on a regular basis. Last night I looked at the site and saw that they had a major presence resembling ebay where people bid on thousands of items.

I was clutching my Goodwill frequent shopper card and barely resisted the urge to join in the bidding. This is not my mother’s Goodwill.

I definitely want to improve my living conditions including getting rid of some junk. I am typing on a keyboard that disgusts me. There was a much better looking keyboard at the store. This apartment, too, must go. I have written, somewhat facetiously, about my interest in becoming a member of a housing cooperative. I thought, how simple could that be? I have been favorably impressed with the progress that Eight Limbs Cooperative has made.

I enjoyed the fundraising event for Eight Limbs that I wrote about.  I have struggled in my efforts to live in  community. In fact I remember being irritated when my partner would open the front curtains in our apartment. Is it simple to let others into your life? Can you trust that seemingly small changes in your life are really safe for you?

Could you accept the pitter patter of all those other people scrambling about lowering or even removing curtains at will? I am going to talk with one of the people who has been encouraging cooperatives and co-housing in Milwaukee to discuss my idea for transforming a small four unit building into a housing cooperative.

Here is the message I wrote about my protect. This is the message I plan to use on COLOG:  There is a wonderful 4 unit building owned by a longtime Riverwest couple who would love to see it to a cooperative. Let’s cooperate. Let’s put our heads together an incorporate a cooperative. Let’s find a name for this new venture and create a self governing organization. Let’s increase diversity in Milwaukee housing. Let’s show that there is an independent spirit in Milwaukee. Send me a message off list and we will get this ball rolling. On to cooperation. Kenyatta

Maybe it is that simple or maybe change is something we must struggle over until it wrestles us to the ground and makes us accept its necessity.

Are You Sure This Isn’t Therapy?

Tonight I told the story of my  struggle with mental problems that led me to seek help from the Center For Veterans Issues.

This organization, founded by Vietnam era veterans, helped me to regain my sense of purpose when I entered their program. I am now the man my mother hoped I would would become. But in between was a story of hope, development a new identity and taking responsibility. I told this story at a benefit for eight limbs housing cooperative.

What was different about  the way I  told my story was the presence of a group Playback Milwaukee Theater Company. According  to their flyer, “in Playback Theater, an audience member tells a true-life story and then watches as the story is brought to life by trained Playback players who re-enact the story on the spot. …The teller receives the gift of a creative and empathic vision of his or her experiences that lets the teller know he or she is  heard and valued.”

As I watched an heard their interpretation of my story I nearly cried. Indeed, I felt heard and appreciated and the hope that the best is yet to come.  The Director, James Murrell, introduced the group bysaying that while their work is not designed as therapy, the result is often therapeutic. I received several hugs afterwards and a person in the audience told me that my story had helped her cope with her own issues. We never know who we will reach with our stories. All we can do is show up and see who is listening.


Don’t Look Back

A few years ago there was a website called promoting reunions with lost loves. So I decided to try to find a woman I knew from high school back in the 60s to see if we could re-ignite the flames. As it happened she was not that difficult to find. She was an active blogger and lived downtown in our old community. I visited her and kept up a correspondence.

But it was clear that too much time and too many things had changed. I was reminded of things I had told my old girl friend that had hurt her very deeply. In the end, I realized I would have been better off remembering her sweet teenage presence. My title for this blog comes from Bob Dylan and Satchel Page, African-American baseball pitcher. Ultimately, the lesson is about being present the lives of the people we reach every day.

Not Wasting My Time on Religion Means More Time With White Unicorns

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Image via Wikipedia
Flaming Chalice
Image via Wikipedia

I just got finished posting some snarky comments on Facebook with a couple of my atheist friends who I thought seemed overly concerned with looking for things in the bible or the Quran or other similar books with which to refute them. It’s a matter of individual choice but I thought I would explain why I think the best response to religion is indifference.

1. It avoids allowing people to live for free in your brain. I don’t know many religious people. There are only 2 or 3 religious people among my Facebook friends and we’ve decided we don’t need to debate our respective beliefs. They have theirs, I have mine. I do the same thing with my in-person friendships. I told one of my classmates that her beliefs were not something I was prepared to discuss after she pushed them on me in a brief conversation. The next time we met, she didn’t even bring up the subject. I have a few religious acquaintances in a group that I attend and I keep them at arm’s length, too.

2. Time is precious and the less time you spend countering what you don’t like, the more you can spend on your wonderfully weird obsessions. I’m sitting here on the edge of my seat waiting for another Mock the Dummy video.

3. I used to stand around and argue with classmates in elementary school about religion, so I figured I had settled all of those arguments.

4. I enjoy the time I spend with Unitarian Universalism. The services that I attend provide information on basic questions highlighting the difference between the major faith groups so if I wanted to explore further, I could. Most often I confine my curiosity to understanding why people broke away from the whole trinity thing and the whole “all you folks but us are going to hell” scene.

5. I prefer to think less about what religion says about itself than what they do. I like the Quakers because of their peace testimony. I like the United Church of Christ for their inclusiveness. I like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as the more liberal of the Lutheran groups because of the social justice causes they support. I do all of this without feeling compelled to worry about where I disagree with them. I’d rather focus on the narrow range of agreements that we have. So, that’s my take on the subject.