Poverty is a strange and elusive thing. … I condemn poverty and I advocate it; poverty is simple and complex at once; it is a social phenomenon and a personal matter. Poverty is an elusive thing, and a paradoxical one. We need always to be thinking and writing about it, for if we are not among its victims its reality fades from us. We must talk about poverty because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it. – Dorothy Day
I was filling in as the shelter monitor this morning at the Shalom Community Center, the day shelter in Bloomington where I’ve worked on-and-off for the last nine years. As the shelter monitor, I am called upon to break up fights, retrieve forgotten backpacks, clean up literal sh** in the bathroom, call the ambulance for medical emergencies. It’s a hard job, but it has its delights.
I stand by the front door and greet each person who walks in, often they are people I’ve known since I first started at Shalom. This morning I got to catch up with a friend, a former client who was the subject of The Job, a short story I wrote in 2016. I was happy to hear that life had stabilized for her in some ways: she had an apartment and steady employment at Bob Evans, but she was still living on the edge. Her job only pays $9/hour and during the summer, when the students were gone, her hours were cut.
She asked about our farm project, and I shared our progress. “You’ll have to come out and visit,” I said. “I bet you don’t get out in the woods very often.”
“I don’t,” she said. “And you know I miss it.”
Later that day I went to the hospital to visit a former guest at the Bloomington Catholic Worker. He too asked about how the farm was going, and expressed his desire to help. “We’ll get you out to visit when you’re feeling better,” I said.
These are the kinds of connections we want to make. After many years living and working with people in poverty, David and I know a lot of people who would benefit from a day’s rest in a beautiful place. And with each passing week, we are getting a little closer to making space for this kind of radical hospitality.
* David Watters and his son, Huck, have been living on the land since July. We are renting a friend’s tiny house and they are champions at “making do” with the space they have. When the garden house (“shed”) renovation is complete, our family will move into that home and David and Huck will move into the cabin. The tiny house will be available for respite retreats and visitors.
*We’ve started some of our community routines: Evening prayer by candle light, using the liturgy in Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hays and Praying the Psalms, a translation by Nan Merill. We have dinner together at least once a week, and finding time for working together: splitting wood, hauling manure, and fixing up the garden house.
The Renovation Update
We have been hard at work getting the garden house (what we usually call “the shed”) ready to live in. We thought it would be fairly simple to renovate the shed 🙂 Not so, not so. But it has been made easier by calling on the expertise of friends. We have such gratitude for the way this project has required us to ask for help, and thus create community. It’s been a wild, joyful (sometimes stressful) ride!
We’ve completed a lot of projects over the last three months, from pouring the foundation for the bathroom addition to insulating the attic to replacing windows. You’ll get a sense for the work we’ve been doing through the pictures below. (Captions pop up for each picture when you move your pointer over them.) Our goal is to move into the garden house by the end of October. Send some prayers our way and let us know if you want to come help out with the final stages of the renovation!