Category Archives: love

Good Job, Florida

Good job
Oh, Florida. It was nice while it lasted, though.

Recently, The Daily Show aired a piece about the fact that in many states, women do not have the option to terminate the parental rights of their attacker if they become pregnant as a result of rape. Yes, beloved, in 21 states of this great nation, it’s possible that a woman could have to co-parent with her rapist. That’s just fucked up. Interestingly, one of the states that does have legislation to prevent this is Florida. Good job, guys. And, as Daily Show correspondent Sam Bee pointed out, that’s not something you get say very often.

If that has you worried that the apocalypse is upon us, rest easy; Florida returned to its true form this week when their House of Representatives passed HB 7111. Titled “Conscience Protection for Actions of Private Child-Placing Agencies”, this bill protects private child-placement organizations from prosecution and civil suits if they refuse to place a child in a home that “would violate agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies”. So much for that “Good job, guys”.

Of course, this bill says that agencies won’t have consider any home they feel violates their “written religious or moral convictions or policies”, but we know who they’re really talking about: the “gays”. Yes, because all gay people in the world have but one desire: to corrupt children with the idea that everyone should be able to love and live with the person that makes them happy. What an insidious idea.

Interestingly, unlike legislators in other states, the conservative proponents of Florida HB 7111 don’t make any bones about the bill’s purpose: discrimination. House Democrats tried multiple times to attach nondiscrimination amendments, but were rebuffed at every turn. One, that would have prevented the state from funding organizations that engaged in discriminatory practices, was met with this comment from sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jason Brodeur (R): “This amendment does the exact opposite of the entire bill. I would ask that you vote it down.” You have to admire his honesty, even if you hate what he’s being honest about.

Now, almost all of the current bills/laws centered around “religious freedom could very easily  come back and bite the proponents in the ass because it’s unconstitutional to make them applicable only to Christians. That means they could be used by Jews, Sikhs, Hindu’s and Muslims(?!?) to deny service to good, Christian folks. But, the Florida law has another apparently unforeseen consequence: it could open the door for discrimination against groups other than the dreaded “gay menace”. And, while in all too many parts of the United States, it’s perfectly okay to shit on people who are LGBTQ, it’s much less socially acceptable (not mention illegal) to discriminate against African-Americans, women (of the single, straight variety; lesbians, of course, are fair game) and other minorities. I wonder what would happen if a religiously conservative child-placement agency  refuses to place a child with a mixed-race family because they consider “miscegenation” a sin (these sects still exist).

One of the founding principles of this country is religious freedom. It was so important to our founding fathers that they included language guaranteeing it in the U. S. Constitution. I am fully in favor of the idea that every individual in this nation should be able to practice the belief of their choice in the way they see fit. What I’m not in favor of is people using freedom of religion to treat others like shit for whatever stupid ass reason they can come up with. If you want to be a fucking bigot, be one openly and don’t use God and the Bible to escape responsibility for your actions. That’s despicable.

What A Difference A Gay Makes

What a difference a gay makes
For the record, I’m not gay. I’m just an enthusiastic ally.

Every so often, some caring soul will announce that the only way for this country to avoid God’s wrath is to kill all the gays. Normally, these calls come from preachers, like Tempe, Arizona’s Steven Anderson or Charles Worley of my very own North Carolina.  Monday, we heard this call again; only this time, it came from an a lawyer in California. On February 26, attorney Matt McLaughlin submitted a ballot measure to the California Attorney General’s office for his “Sodomite Suppression Act“. In essence, McLaughlin’s initiative criminalizes same-sex relations and makes them punishable by death. Why? Because they are “a monstrous evil that Almighty God, giver of freedom and liberty, commands us to suppress on pain of our utter destruction even as he overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” As Enid Strict would say, “Well, isn’t that special?”

Before you get your  knickers in a twist, thinking that California has joined Alabama, North Carolina and all the other states losing their minds over being forced to treat people who are LGBTQ like human beings, relax; it’s not as bad as it sounds. In California, anyone can get a ballot measure considered by submitting a proposal, along with a $200 fee, to the AG’s initiative coordinator. Oh, you also need at least 360,000 signatures on a supporting petition. You couldn’t get that many in Alabama for this insanity, much less in California. I doubt Golden State residents will be voting on this any time soon.

Now, I could take the time to point out that, whether it makes onto the ballot or not, there are numerous problems with the “Sodomite Suppression Act”. Like its name, for instance; specifically, “Sodomite”. That word has been used to describe folks who practice “the love that dare not speak its name” for a long time and is derived from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis. Unfortunately, multiple scriptures point to inhospitality as the sin that brought the hammer down on Sodom and Gomorrah. But, honestly, all that’s kind of boring and others have already done it.

Instead, I want to tell you what I think about whenever I hear some nut job advocating the execution of “the gays”: I wonder if they’ve ever thought what the world would be like without any gay people in it? Because our LGBTQ brothers and sisters have done all sorts of things to make our world fabulous. Here are just a few of the more well-known ones:

  • Alan Turing _ If it weren’t for Turning, I probably wouldn’t be blogging right now. And, not just because of his contributions to computing technology, either. Turing’s code-breaking work at Bletchley Park was instrumental in defeating the Nazi’s. What did he get in reward for all that? You don’t want to know.
  • Tim Cook_ Yes, that Tim Cook. Prior to his gig as CEO of Apple, Cook was VP of Worldwide Operations and Chief Operating Officer of the company. While I’m not an Applephile myself, I do appreciate the innovation the company has brought to the tech world. Cook has been a big part of that.
  • John Barrowman _ Granted, this one only appeals to the Whovians (aka a  Doctor Who fan), but what would we do without Captain Jack?
  • Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci_ Can you imagine a world without the Sistine Chapel or the Mona Lisa? I can’t. And, more to the point, I don’t want to.
  • Sir Francis Bacon _ Among his many contributions, Bacon is considered the “father of the scientific method”. I realize that anything with word “science” or “scientific” may cause some folks to stop listening, but without it, we’d still be living in the Dark Ages.

Like I said, these are just the famous people who are LGBTQ. I count among my friends some incredible folks who are gay; people who are making the world fabulous in their own way, each and every day and I can’t imagine life without them. Like the title says: “What a difference a gay makes”.

Community At The Goose

Wild Goose weirdnessWell, another Wild Goose festival is in the books and, as much as I enjoyed it, I’m glad to be home. Well, sort of; today is shaping up to be a classic Monday. Last week, the kitchen electrical circuit in my house went out. Now, in most homes, this isn’t a big deal. But, I rent a 1950’s ranch from two old fellows who are loath to spend money on the place. So, instead of the usual breaker box, the house has an old style fuse box. Unfortunately, those can’t be repaired or replaced but must be updated. That’s being done today and I don’t have power while the electricians take care of business. If that’s not bad enough, my car developed an extremely irritating squeal on the trip, so I’m sitting in a coffee shop while it’s being worked on. Life is just big ol’ bowl of cherries some days.

Even those slings and arrows can’t bring me down too much (although, I haven’t gotten the bill for my auto repairs yet) because I’m still riding the high from the weekend. As I intimated last week, Wild Goose is as much a community as it is a festival. Granted, it’s not your usual community since it might be the only time most of us see each other face-to-face in a year’s time, but it is a community, nonetheless. That makes sense when you look at the definition of community. According to Dictionary.com (it’s my blog and I get to pick the definitions I like), community is ” a social, religious, occupational or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.” Believe me, if you’ve ever been around this particular group of Jesus  hippies, you know this fits; especially the part about “distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists” (see photo above). While it’s not the kind of community most of us are familiar with, it is a community in the best sense of the word. 

Community, when it’s done right, refreshes, revitalizes and rebuilds. It is a support system, a place of freedom and security. It influences, and is influenced by, our identity. Simply put, community sustains us and makes us what who and what we are. While it is possible to live outside of community, I’m not sure you could call that living; existing  , maybe, but not living.

This past weekend, spent in hinterlands of the Smoky Mountains with no internet or TV and weak cell signal (And I still couldn’t escape the damn World Cup coverage), has done all of those things for me. And, as it usually does, it has brought on a burst of creative energy I don’t get other places. Multiple topics for blog posts, ideas about expanding my reach, inspiration for future projects and other things that are a little harder to quantify. Let’s just say that Wild Goose gives my desire to create a Colbert-like bump. I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone in that.

There is a part of me that wishes for multiple Wild Goose festivals throughout the year. But then, maybe it’s so damn good because it only happens once a year. You know, absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that. Whatever. I’m already counting down to next year.

What You Don’t Know

iPhone food stampsI saw this online recently and wanted to tell the poster, “What you don’t know is that the girl in front of you with the iPhone may have just lost her job and her service hasn’t been cut off yet. Or maybe uses food stamps to feed her kids because her insufficient paycheck is enough to pay the rent and utilities (and these days, a cell phone is a utility just like the lights and water). Or, maybe someone gave her that iPhone and she uses it because a phone can mean the difference between life and death and there are no more pay phones.” But, I didn’t.

I didn’t because I realized they were hurting and, this picture spoke to them. And, it was supposed to. Memes like this are targeted at working class white people who have been fed the line that the government takes care of minorities and let’s them wither on the vine. Is there some truth in that? I don’t know. But, the belief is real enough. In this excerpt from Brother To A Dragonfly, Will D. Campbell explains the source of their feelings:

“The redneck’s slavery, called indentured servitude, was somewhat, but only somewhat unlike that of black slaves. He was told that if he would serve the master for five years, or seven years, he would then be free in a new and prosperous land. But, freedom to what, and in what? Freedom to flounder , to drift, to wander west in search of what had been promised but never delivered. Freedom to compete in the wilderness with wealthy land-holders , with black labor, to fight a war to defend that system as well as his own peonage, to come back home and watch the aristocrat as tried to meet to the basic needs of those he had formerly owned and the handouts of the Freemen’s Bureau to those declared free but still valuable as working property, while he had no assistance at all.”

In other words, working-class white people feel left to their own devices to scratch out a living as best they can while minority groups live it up on entitlements paid for with their hard-earned tax dollars. Is this true? Of course not, but what’s truth got to do with propaganda?

Some of the smartest, most generous people I know have bought into the dog-whistle politics employed by the Right these days. Why do you think that is? It’s not because they’re stupid, or greedy, or hateful because they are decent, intelligent, loving people who go out of their way to help others in need. No, it’s because they believe the purveyors of those insidious code words listen to them. And, they do; unfortunately, they use what they learn from listening (the anger and frustration felt by working class whites) to divide and conquer. While much of the effectiveness of this venture can be chalked up to a very potent campaign of brainwashing indoctrination, the progressive/liberal community bears some responsibility, too.

The truth is, progressives/liberals play a significant part in the alienation and abandonment these people feel. Every smug, condescending and superior comment/post/article about “ignorant rednecks” and the like treats fellow human beings as somehow “less than”. It casts them as ignorant, benighted souls in need of the enlightenment that only progressives (i.e. “smart” people) can provide. That’s just wrong.

If we’re ever going to end the bitterly partisan divide in this country, someone’s going to have to step up and actually start loving their neighbor and hear what they have to say. If we progressives are as tolerant and loving as we say, why shouldn’t it be us?

An Open Letter To Those Who “Speak The Truth In Love”

Two sides of the same coin?I want to speak to my conservative brothers and sisters right now. You guys have been using the phrase in the title quite a bit these days and, while I know this expression sounds nice, the truth is it’s  a dog-whistle phrase. And, by that I mean “an innocuous statement which is designed to trigger previously indoctrinated bigotry & hatred without being recognized by outsiders for bigotry or hateful speech.” This is not good, folks. 

It’s not a stretch to say that most of you would never hold a sign saying “God Hates Fags”, protest at the funeral of a public figure who was an outspoken supporter of marriage equality or do any of the other things the folks at Westborough Baptist Church are engaged in. Instead, you wring your hands at the potential “damage” that could result from allowing people to marry the person they love. Or, you tell LGBTQ folks that something which goes to the very heart of their being (their orientation, gender, etc.) is a sin, an abomination in the eyes of God. And, that’s an awful thing to say.

The worst part is you claim that by doing all these terrible things, you are speaking “the truth in love”. Well, I’ve got news for you, there is neither love nor truth in these words. In reality, you are merely a sanitized version of WBC. If you want to know the truth, I have more respect for the Phelps clan than Kirk Cameron and the other high-profile anti-LGBTQ bigots. Or, any of the rest of you, for that matter. That’s because the folks at WBC are honest and open with their hate; they put it out there for all the world to see. The soft-sell from WBC’s less-strident allies (and make no mistake, you are allying yourself with them) may sound loving, but in reality, it is no less hateful than the ugly words that spew from the mouths of that ultra-radical bunch of nutjobs in central Kansas.

The truth is, you have yet to put up a cogent argument against same-sex marriage. Most of what you have to offer involve nebulous threats to the nuclear family, traditional values or the country at large. These arguments aren’t new, we heard the same reasoning garbage in connection to inter-racial marriage in the 50’s and 60’s. Well, inter-racial marriage has been the law of the land since 1967 and the family hasn’t disintegrated, traditional values still hold sway (which is both good and bad) and the United States is still plugging along. No, the truth is you’re opposed to same-sex marriage because you think it’s icky. I hate to break it to you, but there is no love in denying people rights and protections because you find them icky.

I know might come off as a little harsh; it’s hard to hear that not only are you in league with some of the biggest assholes on the planet, you’re really just a toned-down version of the same. Believe me, it wasn’t easy to say all this, but I feel like I had to let you know what you’re doing  is a sin.

While Jesus had a lot to say about loving others, we have nothing from him about sexuality and gender issues. Oh sure, Paul mentions it a couple of times, but those mentions are far outweighed by his exhortations that we are all one in Christ. I have to tell you, making the LGBTQ thing the hill you want the church to die on pretty much tosses out what both men stood for. Like I said earlier, it was hard for me to tell you all this, but I felt like I had to “speak the truth in love” in hopes of saving your soul from the fires of Hell.

See how douchey it sounds when it’s turned back on you? Do us all a favor and stop using the word “love” when you say this crap. Because, the truth is, there’s no “love” in it what you’re saying. None at all.

A New Commandment I Give You

Don't be a dickLike most writers, I keep a list of topics that I can’t use right away. The reasons vary; often, I might think an idea has merit, but don’t know how to approach it. Or, just as often, I’m in the middle of something else and can’t develop it right then. Sometimes, these things just click on their own. Other times, I’ll hear or read something that causes it to click. Today’s post is one I’ve sat on for a while. It started with the following statement: Sometimes, I think there should be a bible verse that goes  “A new commandment I give you: Don’t be a dick”  found in the book of First Curmudgeons.” It was one of those thoughts that came up while I was working on something else, so I filed it away. To be honest, I had forgotten about it until this morning when I remembered a conversation I had yesterday. 

It was a slow day around the office at Love Wins. I didn’t have any trips to the food pantry on the schedule and, other than picking up bread from Yellow Dog Bread Company, the only task Maggie had for me was taking a few bags of stuff we couldn’t use to the thrift store. I wasn’t complaining, though, because it gave me some time to catch up with Hugh, who I haven’t seen in a couple of weeks. At some point in the chaotic free-wheeling exchange of ideas that passes for conversation between us, the phrase “Don’t be a dick” came up in connection with Christian behavior. Somehow, I got from that statement to the idea that “Don’t be a dick” isn’t a bad modern interpretation of the majority of Jesus’ teachings.

Before you get offended and write a scathing comment or (worse) leave with no intention of coming back because you think I’m saying Jesus used that kind of language, let me point out that I’m not saying that. I’m saying those four words aren’t a bad way to sum what he actually did say. Don’t think so? Then, let me enlighten you.

When a lawyer asked him what was the greatest commandment of all, Jesus replied 

The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. 31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

And, in John, one of the last things he tells his disciples is 

I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.”

In other words, Jesus talked about love more than anything else. And, love and being a dick are pretty much mutually exclusive.

Of course, someone is thinking “Jesus also said ‘Don’t even begin to think that I have come to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I haven’t come to do away with them but to fulfill them.’ What about that, Mr. Smart-ass?” I say that “Don’t be a dick” is the fulfillment of the law. And, you know what? The Apostle Paul agrees with me. In the 13th chapter of Romans, he says

“The commandments, Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t desire what others have, and any other commandments, are all summed up in one word: You must love your neighbor as yourself.10 Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is what fulfills the Law”

So, there.

Is interpreting these scriptures the way I have a little on the negative side? Yes, it is. Am I setting the bar incredibly low with this interpretation? Yes, I am. But, the truth is, we haven’t done so well with more positive, uplifting version and I’m hoping a little plain-speaking bluntness might get the message across. I’m not holding my breath until it happens, though.

 

Apocalypse Now?

I am currently reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It’s the latest read for the (Mostly) Men’s Book Club at CPBC and is a…, unique story about the Apocalypse involving witches, demons, angels, bikers and more. You could say it’s an irreverent story. Of course, you could also say the Noah story is about a thunderstorm. Granted, it’s not a book you would expect find sitting around a Baptist church. But, then, College Park isn’t like most Baptist churches. For example, this demotivator is hanging outside the pastor’s office door: traditiondemotivator

 

 

 

 

 

 

See what I mean? Now, if we were a “normal” Baptist church, we’d be reading the Left Behind series. I’m so glad we’re not normal. I cannot stand those books.

You’re probably wondering why, as a good Christian boy, I don’t care for the epic narrative crafted by Jerry Jones and Tim Lahaye. I don’t like it because it gets Revelation completely wrong, being based on something called dispensationalismThat’s a big word for a biblical interpretation which says God has related to humanity in a chain of dispensations or eras of history. The funny part of it all is that the majority of people who believe this way claim they don’t interpret the Bible, they take it literally. Or, to paraphrase one of their bumper stickers adages “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.” Except, in this case, the Bible doesn’t say it.

The plot of Left Behind revolves around the Rapture and subsequent Tribulation, neither of which occur in Bible as presented. Their story is based on God doing something that occurs nowhere else in the Bible, taking people out of a bad situation (the Rapture) and 7 seven years of affliction (the Tribulation). While there is tribulation aplenty in the Bible, the idea that it will last 7 years is a little more recent, arrived at by a fellow named Darby who did some impressive biblical gymnastics to get there. It’s all a little weird.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a weird story…, as long as it’s good. But, while Revelation is filled with amazingly weird stuff, Jenkins and Lahaye have told an awful story. Mostly, because they’re true believers and you can’t tell a story this odd without having your tongue firmly in your cheek at least part of the time. Unfortunately, humor/snark is not the strong suit of the true believer. Happily, Pratchett and Gaiman operate under no such constraint.

If it was just a matter of bad story-telling, I wouldn’t care that much about the Left Behind books. But, it’s about so much more. It’s about a mindset that thinks the world is ending soon (even though it’s been ending since the Apostle Paul’s day), so why bother making it a better place? That mindset allows a pastor to say “I know who made the environment. He’s coming back, and he’s going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.” It allows some Christians to ignore the plight of the poor worry more about a person’s soul than their stomach. And, it ignores practically everything Jesus said about the Kingdom of Heaven and replaces it with pie-in-the-sky bullshit that allows people to continue living for themselves. And, that’s not biblical at all. 

Did it Really Happen That Way?

they see me rolling
The only Empty Tomb meme that I actually like.

So much that gets said about Easter seems to focus on death, sacrifice and punishment. I swear, 364 days of the year, all I hear about is how Jesus “died for my sins”. Easter Sunday is, of couse, the 365th day. Then,  my social media feed blows up with pictures of an empty tomb that have “He is risen!” plastered across them. But, now it’s Easter Monday and I won’t be seeing that stuff again until next year. Which is strange; you’d think the fact that Jesus, through his resurrection, had conquered death and the power of evil would be something Christians couldn’t shut up about. But, it isn’t and I can’t help but wonder why.

I think, in part, it’s because the whole thing a little strange. You and I both know if that story was told in any other context, we’d call bullshit. That, or think it was the plot of a new science-fiction series on Netflix.  I mean, seriously, that whole coming back from the dead is just freaky. And, when you throw in all that atonement stuff on top of it? Well, that can be a bit much. Maybe some people don’t talk about it because it’s just too weird to process. So, they choose to ignore it.

Of course, there is another way to deal with it. A friend of mine who is wrestling with a lot of questions about his faith referred to the resurrection as something that “never happened”. While I won’t go quite that far, I will say I don’t think things played out the way we’ve  been told. Was Jesus physically, bodily raised from the dead? Maybe, maybe not. I suppose it could have been a for-real, physical resurrection. It’s just as possible that the disciples experienced Jesus’ presence in the days after his death in a more spiritual way. But, does that really matter?

No, it doesn’t. Not for me, anyway. What does matter is that something happened on that morning. I say that because here it is 2000 years later and we’re still talking about it. Now, I’ll admit that, on some level, I have to believe something happened that day; otherwise, when it comes to my faith, things might get a little shaky. I suppose, then, the question becomes exactly what do I believe happened?

I believe that, in a small backwater part of the greatest empire the world had ever seen, an itinerant Jewish rabbi became the foremost practitioner of the extreme, unconditional love that is God anyone has seen before or since. Because of this, his actions and his teaching threatened the powers that be so much that they had him executed in the most demeaning way they possibly could, thinking this would discredit him and put an end to his blasphemy and sedition. But, it didn’t work out that way. Somehow, either physically or spiritually, he continued to influence and inspire his followers in such a way that they were able to carry on the work he started. In other words, Jesus’ message of unconditional love didn’t die on the cross. Because of that I know that that evil does not have the final say and that death is not the end. I know that love is all that matters and everything else is crap.

Imago Dei

imago_dei_detailSaying that the concept of Imago Dei is not unknown to Christians is an understatement on the order of saying Custer and the Seventh Cavalry had a bad day on the Little Big Horn back in 1876. It’s all over the Bible and has come up in more than one Sunday Sermon. But, for all the hype over the idea, I can’t help but think that most of us Christians don’t really believe it. We certainly don’t act like we do.

The history of Christendom is filled with examples of man’s inhumanity to man; wars, inquisitions, witch hunts and more. Lest you think that’s all in the distant past, The Troubles in Northern Ireland have claimed thousands of dead and injured. According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency estimates that this conflict has affected as many as 500,000 people. You don’t have to look overseas to find examples of the shitty way Christians treat others, either. Earlier this month, World Vision announced that it would no longer discriminate against LGBTQ individuals in its hiring practices, which caused evangelicals to threaten to pull their support from the agency. Essentially, for these folks, World Vision’s doctrinal purity is more important than feeding starving children. This is not how we would treat God, so why do we treat those made in God’s image this way?

Is it so surprising that we don’t see the image of God in others when we don’t see in it ourselves? Each and every one of us have aspects of our personality that we hate. And, all too often, we allow those aspects to carry more weight than the things we love about ourselves. This is the Devil and his demons, not some fellow with horns and a pitchfork tempting us to “lie with mankind, as with womankind” or any other “sin” we lay at his door. Self-hate blinds us to the fact that we are, indeed, made in the image of God. That blindness allows us say and do terrible things to ourselves and others. If there are degrees of sin, then hate (especially self-hate) has to be at the top of the list because, like English 101, it is the pre-requisite for all the other ones.

We would do well to remember these words from Doris Betts’ Everything I Know About Writing I Learned in Sunday School:

“The Bible doesn’t concentrate on one-sided, goody-goody characters. Career thieves get redeemed at the very last minute. God seems to love human beings, warts and all. A trickster like Jacob and an adulterer like King David are of great interest to Yahweh; doubting Thomas and cowardly Peter are important to Christ. Will Campbell once stated it bluntly: “We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.”

I can’t help but believe that when stop hating ourselves, we’ll stop hating each other. When we accept that we, ourselves, are made in the Image of God, we will begin to accept that others are also made in that image. And, then, maybe we can start doing this Christian thing the way we should.

Relationships

RelationshipThe folks at Love Wins say homelessness isn’t really a lack of housing, it’s a lack of relationships. A lot of people who are homeless, hungry, poor, etc., don’t have relationships with others who can make sure they’re not outdoors, have enough to eat, are sufficiently clothed and any of the other necessities that life requires. For example, there have been times when I couldn’t make the rent, keep the lights or water on, didn’t have money for groceries, etc. But, my friends and family stepped in to make sure I didn’t get evicted, go hungry or suffer any of the other disasters that could have befallen me.Because of that, this “lack of relationships” thing has always seemed a little foriegn to me. But, the story of Pia Farrenkopf? That’s different.

Pia Farrenkopf was a 49 year-old woman from Pontiac, Michigan who died in 2009. Sadly, that’s not really news; it happens every day. What makes this story different is that no one missed her until a few weeks ago. Yeah, you read that right, she was dead for 5 years and no one missed her. How could such a thing happen? Well, Farrenkopf’s job required a good deal of travel and her neighbors were used to extended absences; that job had ended a few months earlier, so no one at work missed her; what family she had lived on the East Coast and she had lost touch with them and, her mortgage and utilities were paid by bank draft out of an account that had a pretty good chunk of change in it ($54,000). It was that money running out that allowed her to be found; the bank foreclosed on the mortgage and a contractor checking things out found her in the backseat of her car, sitting in the garage.

How does one make so little impact on the world around them that no one notices they’re gone for 5 years? Simply put, a lack of relationships. If Farrenkopf had just one person she talked to on any kind of regular basis, things would’ve turned out differently. But, she didn’t and died alone and unnoticed.

You may be thinking “This is incredibly sad, but it’s nothing like being homeless or hungry”. And, maybe it’s not. But, the loneliness this woman must have felt is heart-breaking. It’s the same loneliness that people who are homeless, on the margins and fallen through the cracks, deal with on a daily basis. And, it may be the most dehumanizing part of the whole situation.

I tell you this story because, while it is a bit extreme, I could see it happening to me. Oh, not the part about no one noticing me being gone for 5 years, that’s a bit much. But, I’m pretty introverted and I like my solitude. If it wasn’t for Olivia (my daughter, who still lives with me), I could go several days without seeing anyone. With just a few small changes to my life, I could end up like Farrenkopf. That realization also highlights the fact that, with just few different changes, I could end up without enough to eat, a place to lay my head or the agency to deal with those problems. When I see it in that light, it’s not so foreign after all.