slubs in the city

Slub (adj): Maverick; unorthodox; independent in behavior or thought.


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on abusing the concept of entitlement.

Regarding the business of being an American:

Recently, I read an opinion piece called 10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America”. I was caught by the title – I thought that the article would uncover some little-known, fascinating facts about our nation, of which I’m sure there are many. In this case my instincts were off. The author of the piece, Mark Manson, is an American reflecting on his home country through the lens of a world traveler, and he uses his platform to address the knowledge gaps he perceives in Americans’ own self-awareness of their place in the world. A quick scan of the article’s comment section reveals that, although Manson tries to stress his own personal biases, his beliefs are highly polarizing.

The list itself is worth the read, but in essence, Manson is driving home an oft-repeated message: Americans think too much of themselves and of their situation.

In summary: we don’t really impress anyone, mostly because other people don’t think about us on even an occasional basis when they’re making daily decisions. We’re ignorant about the rest of the world. We can’t express gratitude or affection because we’ve been socialized against it. Our quality of life isn’t actually that stellar, especially because the rest of the world isn’t actually a slum. We’re paranoid because we fear losing status and attention, which are two of our main life goals. We are an unhealthy population and, moreover, we’re unhappy because we overvalue the ease of comfort.

Manson uses the following video to polish his assertions with a Hollywood sheen:

In the video, Jeff Daniels’s character waxes poetic on all of the things that used to make America great but (according to the character) no longer typify our society, asserting that “the first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.” Manson echoes this piece of wisdom, claiming, “There are things I love about my country. I don’t hate the US and I still return to it a few times a year. But I think the greatest flaw of American culture is our blind self-absorption.”

 While I have many thoughts about the video (most of them negative) and about Manson’s statements (some positive and some negative), my largest reaction to the entire piece was: this isn’t anything that, as an American, I haven’t already heard.

Are we Americans self-absorbed? You could argue the point either way. But I do not believe that we are unflinchingly blind.

To say that we, as Americans, think that our nation is greater than it is would be to put words in our mouths. That is the problem with leveraging generalizations to make a point, however useful or applicable those generalizations may be. We are a people who have a personal awareness of our own, personal situations, and that awareness manifests itself on a more global scale depending on the individual – just as it does for Finns, or Ghanaians, or Turks, or Peruvians. Education is essential to expanding our awareness beyond our front porch, and as a global community, I believe that it is our responsibility to think critically about how our actions affect others. But the beauty and the difficulty of education is that it can be an emotion-driven experience, and we must be careful about how we label the problems we’re attempting to get others to recognize.

I do not believe self-deprecation will induce most Americans to gladly hop onboard the CHANGE AMERICA NOW train. I also don’t believe that shouting at us to wake up forwards the dialogue for the many Americans who would see our generation succeed in a society that we understand as being flawed. What we need now is a way to redirect the conversation towards unburdened progress, a progress that learns from and respects our history but is not strictly beholden to or punished for it. We must recognize that we are a citizenry that has been endowed with a rich set of values which have differentiated and aided us in the past, a values system that has continued to shape our present – but that we are also a citizenry that must actively work to transform our values for the future. This process of metamorphosis is not helped by those who would criticize us; rather, it is nurtured by those who would share with us an alternative path, recognizing that our way of doing things might naturally be different.

I am proud to be an American, regardless of the faults that others perceive to be inherent in that classification. I will be even more proud as our society rises to the occasion and greets the critique of others, not with defensiveness, but with a willingness to learn and the confidence to grow.

con amor,

shan


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to my future child, from your millennial mother.

To my dear future chubby-cheeks:

Lately, your future mother has been hearing a lot of noise about how her narcissistic generation needs to get over feeling like we’re anything special.

You see, a few years before you were born, I attended a Citizens League discussion titled “The Looming Intergenerational War”. The purpose of the dialogue: can entitled, liberal Millennials, ignored and indifferent GenXers, and social security-hogging Boomers sit in the same room without feeling the need to rip into each other for perceived affronts to their dignity and lifestyle? (Am I perhaps being hyperbolic, you ask? Pffft. As my child you should realize that I am never sarcastic. Ever.)

Say nothing about the conflict in Afghanistan: as I write this letter to you, my Millennial comrades and I are currently locked in a brutal socioeconomic fight to the death with our Boomer parents and even our GenXer older cousins. Why, you ask? Mainly because many major news outlets, politicians, and the Twitterverse have trumpeted in no uncertain terms that we are, in fact, at war. How can I possibly look at your grandparents now – my sworn enemies – without being moved to openly weep at the cruel fate that has placed us at opposite ends of the cultural battle field?

Future baby, here is the supposed plight of my Perez-loving soldiers in arms: our older coworkers call us lazy because we refuse to put in our time at the bottom of the employee food chain – after all, we’ve been so used to receiving trophies and accolades for our mediocre work that we now scoff at positions we deem “below us”. They say we whine incessantly (and unjustifiably) about Boomers leaving us to inherit a bleak economic future, even as we’re simultaneously instructed to get our s#!t together because Lord knows we won’t have social security to fall back on when we contemplate retirement. (Someday you and I will have an enlightening conversation about what that s-word means. Today is not that day.) We are looked down upon for being coddled, for having everything from grades to smartphones that we don’t deserve, for being unmotivated. Sometimes, we aren’t even called Millennials or Generation Y – our hugely inflated egos are more likely characterized by the moniker Generation Me.

Okay…seriously though, baby. I want you to know that, regardless of our age and generation – Boomer, Gen X, Millennial, what have you – very few of us today actually believe this crap.

Grandma and grandpa are not perfect (despite what they might tell you), but both your uncle and I will strongly assert that they brought us up in the best and most loving way they knew how. If my mom and dad have ever told me I’m good at something, it’s because I legitimately am. Listen baby, your momma is fully aware that she’s a hot mess when it comes to math and science. My pride has been kicked down a notch on more than one occasion regarding my (lack of) athletic and artistic abilities. So why is it such a complete and utter travesty that I’ve ever been encouraged for being good at something, like possessing a knack for written communication, or having talent with a musical instrument, or being able to think critically and objectively?

What’s more, some of the best praise I have ever received has come to me in the form of criticism. A story (and you’ll probably hear this one often, baby, so listen up): when I was a freshman in college, I pulled an all-nighter to write a large research paper for one class and a one-page literary response for another. Both were deplorable examples of scholarly work. However, when I received a check-minus on the one-page response (the symbolic equivalent of “at least you strung some letters together on a piece of paper…”), I was indignant and felt I had been misunderstood. I went to my professor’s office to plead my case and prove that my argument was clearly articulated and supported by textual evidence. He replied, “No, it wasn’t. You were wrong. I know what you’re capable of producing, and I will always expect more of you.” I thank God for that professor, and for the lasting impact he’s had on my self-esteem, because he was right: I can do better. Remember this, baby: regardless of your strengths, you should never assume you have learned all you could learn. We can all, always, do better.

Generational war is largely a myth, child of mine. Your generation will struggle to find its place in the world when you grow up, just as my generation is currently working to build a successful future that we can claim as our own. Rest assured that your grandparent’s generation, and generations of ancestors before them, has done the same. History can give us context for our decisions, but the only person responsible for your life is you.

Someday, baby, you will grow up and leave me. I can’t promise I’ll be the coolest mom in the world, and I can’t promise I’ll always do everything right by you, but I swear that I’ll raise you the best way I know how, just like your grandparents raised me. I will help you to recognize and to grow your talents, because without them, you won’t know how to establish your place in this huge world. And I will encourage you to surround yourself with people who are more talented in other ways than you, and who will give it to you straight when you need a slice of humble pie. You are not perfect, baby, and while you should be bold in the knowledge of your strengths, you must never forget to be vulnerable and open in your weaknesses.

And most of all, baby, I vow that you will always know that you’re special…because to me, you already are.

With love,

Your mother*

*Nope, I’m not currently pregnant. Hope we’re all on the same hypothetical page here.


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hey you. stand up and vote.

This morning, a friend of mine posted the following status update on Facebook:

“While waiting in line to vote, the father in front of me was explaining to his precocious 6-yr-old why only adults were allowed to vote and why it’s important. He said voting is our most important act as a citizen. It is a privilege and is one of the most freeing things we can do in the US. Wise father.”

Both the father in her story and my friend are completely right. Participating in our democratic process is a privilege, one that many Americans are correctly taking advantage of today.

VOTE TODAY. [image credit: here.]

Here are some interesting statistics about the 2010 election, for your pleasure*:

  • In 2010, 41.8% of the voting-age population reported having voted in the election. Interestingly, 59.8% reported having registered to vote.
  • More women than men reported having voted in the 2010 election – 42.7% to 40.9%.
  • 69-year-olds were the most likely of any other age to vote in the 2010 election; a full 63.1% of them reported having cast a ballot on Election Day.
  • More New Englanders reported having voted in 2010 (48.2%) than any other geographic region in the country.
  • 58.4% of Maine’s citizens reported having voted in the 2010 election, the highest turnout of any other state that year. Only 31.4% of Texans reported making it to the polls, representing the lowest turnout rate of any state that year.

During the 2008 election – with the presidency contested between Barack Obama and John McCain – voter trends reflected a more responsive citizenry.

  • 58.2% of Americans reported voting in the 2008 election.
  • Same news on the gender front, though: 55.7% of males reported having voted, while 60.4% of women participated in Election Day.
  • The age group that was most likely to vote during the 2008 election? 77-year-olds (at 72.8%). If a 77-year-old can get to their polling place, you can too. No excuses.
  • During this election cycle, more citizens from the West North Central region (65.9%) reported having voted than any other geographical region. Exactly which states comprise the West North Central region, you ask? I have no idea.
  • More Minnesotans (70.8%) reported turning out on Election Day in 2008 than any other state. Take that Maine. Meanwhile, in Hawaii, only 46.8% of the population reported having voted, presumably because they were enjoying lounging around in the warm tropical breezes that Minnesotans could only bitterly dream of in November.

We tend to think of our right to vote as a hallmark of the American experience, but representative democracy hasn’t always been egalitarian in our country’s voting history. In 1776, John Adams – a signer of the Declaration of Independence and 2nd President of the United States – held the following beliefs about popular enfranchisement:

“…It is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of controversy and altercation as would be opened by attempting to alter the qualifications of voters; there will be no end to it. New claims will arise; women will demand the vote; lads from 12 to 21 will think their right not enough attended to; and every man who has not a farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other, in all acts of state. It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions, and prostrate all ranks to one common level.”

Strong words, Adams.

Despite our 2nd President’s warning, in the century following the Civil War, a variety of Amendments were passed which allowed for the broader enfranchisement of a significant portion of American society.

  • In 1870, the 15th Amendment guaranteed to black men 21 years or older the right to vote.
  • In 1920, the 19th Amendment granted women’s suffrage.
  • The 23rd Amendment allowed for citizens living in the District of Columbia to vote in presidential elections as of 1961.
  • The 24th Amendment, ratified in 1964, prohibited the use of poll taxes and allowed all voting-age citizens the right to a free vote.
  • In 1971, the 26th Amendment expanded the right to vote to citizens aged 18 or older.

It has taken us a long, long time to establish the right to vote as it is currently appreciated in America. As a citizen of this country, it is your duty, your freedom and your responsibility to participate in the electoral process. The polls are still open – please make sure that you cast your vote today!

If you’re still uncertain where your polling place is located, visit this link for important Election Day information: http://www.vote411.org/.

con amor,

shan

*Voting trend data for the 2010 and 2008 elections can be found at the United States Census Bureau’s Voting and Registration website.


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oh hey, remember the golden rule?

Sometimes I wonder how people who have never worked in the service industry come to internalize the word “nice”.

The real world teaches us that being nice to someone can be shockingly difficult to do. We all have stressors that set us off at random times. The fuse for some is significantly shorter and more flammable than for others, and it can be less morally disquieting to be rude to a stranger than to someone you care for and interact with on a regular basis. For a certain reason, at a certain moment, we have all put our foot down in direct opposition to somebody else’s bullshit. And we feel justified in the act.

If you have never worked in the service industry before, it’s hard to understand the intricate dance that requires an employee to balance his or her delicate sense of self-worth with a capacity to provide exceptional customer service. People can be incredibly mean.

EXHIBIT A

I spent two summers working in retail sales in high school. At the register one day, I was approached by a woman who wanted to return a garment she had purchased for her daughter. To complete the return I asked for her address, including her zip code. When she answered with a code that included letters, I was a little confused.

The woman was Canadian and in her estimation I should have known that. I’ve never been to Canada. I had no idea their zip codes include letters.

The woman scoffed at my ignorance. She condescendingly informed me that I should “really know better”, as if my extremely vapid 16 year old brain had purposefully blocked out this one insurmountably important detail of Canadian culture. I was then curtly informed that I shouldn’t disrespect the multitude of Canadian shoppers that frequent the Mall of America, because they supply the majority of the revenue to the stores in America’s largest shopping center.

Now, I don’t have solid facts to back up this assertion, but I’m pulling the BS card on crabby Canadian lady. I’m fairly certain that the majority of revenue generated by the Mall of America stems from Americans.

The way I see it, by the time Canadian lady reached my store, she had been thoroughly harassed by the entire MOA experience. Her patience was running thin. Reason would have told her that it’s not necessary or personally offending for a teenage girl to have little knowledge of the inner workings of the Canadian postal system.

But reason be damned; she just didn’t feel like being nice. And as an employee on the receiving end of her unpleasantness, it was my job to be self-deprecating and pretend like I gave two shits about her zip code. And now, 7 years later, I can still recall that particular exchange almost to the word.

Being treated like an unintelligent or lazy scumbag by customers has broken many a service-oriented employee’s heart. It’s not fun to get shouted at for attempting to do your job. Working at a bakery and for American Eagle, I had it relatively easy. I can’t even imagine the soul-crushing experiences of customer service representatives, telemarketers, or sidewalk recruiters.

But dealing with mean people as an employee has taught me to be incredibly patient and understanding as a consumer. (I say this as a generality; I am only human and have admittedly been less than accommodating to people in the past.)

EXHIBIT A

This past December, Santa brought me the best nerd gift I could have asked for: The Sims 3 – Pets. I was totally jazzed until I attempted to install the game on my computer and realized I had been given a faulty code.

Over the span of 3 weeks I tried reaching out to customer service on multiple different occasions. Each time I was informed that my problem had been solved (when it hadn’t been) or that my problem only existed in my head (when it clearly didn’t). Finally, on my fourth attempt, I connected with a friendly man on the East Coast. Patiently I explained my problem over again. And this time I was presented with a new, functioning code – and a 20% off coupon, in case I had been eyeing any additional products. I didn’t demand the discount. It was simply presented to me. And I’d like to think it was because I wasn’t a complete bitch to customer service representative #4.

EXHIBIT B

Last month, my boyfriend and I were flying from Denver home to Minneapolis. Our seats were in the back of the plane, but they weren’t next to each other. Living by the idea that it’s better to ask than to assume, Jaime approached the front counter at our gate and inquired if it was possible to switch seats, mentioning that we’d be fine with something in the exit row (he’s 6’6” after all). The attendant informed us that the seating arrangements were pretty tight at that point, but that we could purchase any available exit row seats for an additional fee. We thanked her anyway and went back to our bags in the waiting area.

A few minutes before we were to board, the same attendant called Jaime up to the gate counter. He returned with two tickets in hand. We had been given new seating assignments: two seats, right next to each other, in an exit row. No additional charge.

Before we got on the plane we approached the front desk one final time and thanked the attendant again, informing her that we really appreciated her generosity. She smiled and told us that it was her pleasure and that she hoped we had a good flight.

This is one of the most important lessons I will teach to my future children: even when you don’t feel like it, being nice is so much rewarding than being mean. Patience is a virtue and only the most truly enlightened employ it in liberal amounts.

con amor,

shan

[image credit: here.]


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value [val-yoo]: noun, verb.

Presumably you’ve just read the title of this post and are now thinking, good holy Lord above, not another reflection piece. Here’s what’s up: I’ve been on an introspective kick lately, mostly because Kat and my lives have been lacking in epic adventure and our literary resources are stretched a bit thin. Some of you may in fact want to hear about how much queso (multiple bowls) and how many cupcakes (multiple dozens) we have consumed over the previous few months, but that wouldn’t make for a very long blog post.

                        but seriously.

My last entry was about everything I’ve learned in the past 226 days from working at Thrivent and living with Kat, Laura, Nora and Anna in Minneapolis. Writing that post reminded me of another blog entry I penned way back at the beginning of my fellowship, when I was still amped on graduating into “adult world” and there was thriving greenery outside: read it here.

The post recounts my experiences with a values card exercise. With the help of a deck of 50 flashcards, each with a moral principle and a definition, I selected the top 5 standards in my personal values system. But like Kate Middleton’s status as a commoner, those top 5 values are SO seven months ago.

she’s a duchess now after all.

I’m an entirely different person now, thanks to Michelle Bachmann the mouse and our recycling collectors. So I tried the values card exercise again, and – wouldn’t you know it! – 3 of my top values have gone the way of the buffalo. Or should I say, they’ve simply transitioned.

Check yourself, I’m about to create a stunning visual for you:

“OLD” VALUES                           “NEW” VALUES

1.   Diversity                              1.   Autonomy

2.   Education                            2.   Community

3.   Faith                                    3.   Education

4.   Freedom                              4.   Fairness

5.   Happiness                           5.   Happiness

As you can see, both Education and Happiness managed to stick around. Darn it all if I don’t firmly believe in my right to learn and be happy. But who invited those other three strangers to the values party?

Autonomy:

  1. The quality or state of being self-governing, especially: the right of self-government.
  2. Self-directing freedom and especially moral independence.
  3. A self-governing state.

My parents have a significant collection of home videos from when my brother Collin and I were little. During a family picnic in one particularly memorable video, a tiny Shannon stands brandishing a hotdog like a scepter and repeatedly shouting the name of our country into the camera for no rational reason: “Umnited States of Umehwika. UmNITED states of UmEHwika.”

My intense love for the political philosophical foundations of our nation appears to have begun at a very early stage in life.

I won’t go into this concept extensively. Practically every post I have written in this blog contains at least a sentence or two that read like Mel Gibson’s script from The Patriot.

AMERICA!!!

But I had to ask myself: why the shift from Freedom to Autonomy? To be free, to live without obligation, is a basic and unalienable right. To be autonomous, though – that is a privilege. It is a privilege that many ignorant individuals choose to abuse, and many more thoughtful citizens wish they enjoyed.  The buzz surrounding the upcoming election has reminded me that my ability to self-govern has been cultivated by my education, my upbringing and my personal status as an American citizen. If values are the standard by which an individual measures the worth of his or her actions, it would mean flagrant contempt of the political philosophies I respect to underappreciate the weight of Autonomy in my moral system.

Community: a unified body of individuals, as…

  1. An interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location.
  2. A group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.
  3. A group linked by a common policy.
  4. A body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests.

Reading through my definitions, I’m realizing how polar opposite Autonomy and Community sound. I’m running with it though:

While every individual should have the privilege to self-government, we all have the right to belong. Sure, we may start and end our lives alone, but every second of the time in between is spent muddling around on a planet populated entirely by other people. At a fundamental level we thrive primarily on human interaction, even if the people we meet aren’t necessarily like us – but life is so much sweeter when we feel like we belong to a group. There are an infinite number of interests and character quirks represented by our world’s population, and I guarantee that you will find a place to fit in somewhere.

for instance, i’m obsessed with the sims. and i’m certainly not alone. i have a community!

You are never truly alone. Whatever your definition of the idea, everyone should have a home. In some small way, everyone should have a community to belong to.

Fairness:

  1. The state, condition, or quality of being free from bias or injustice.
  2. Evenhandedness.

Listen. It’s really, really hard to be fair where human emotions are concerned, and in case you haven’t noticed, it is actually impossible for us as a species to completely detach ourselves from any and all emotion. Even Spock couldn’t go without indulging his feelings every now and then. I do not espouse unquestionable fairness in every circumstance, especially if it means the death of all passion and drive. Autonomy doesn’t necessarily tango well with Fairness in all situations, and I believe that there has to be a balance on the dance floor if we’re going to succeed as a community. (Not that I can dance with any measure of grace anyway.)

             look how emotionally happy he is!

But in the spirit of laying it all out there, I must warn you: it is dangerous to engage me in conversation if you have no inclination or ability to consider any part of the opposite side of a story. If you are the most avid human being ever about cause X or initiative Y or debate Z, I envy your zeal. But if you have never once stopped to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and consider the value of their opinion, stance or experience, you will never gain my personal respect.

I believe strongly in making an attempt to treat others with as much consideration and objectivity as I can, because I hope to be treated fairly in return.

So the moral of the story is…

A couple of days ago, Kat and I volunteered to teach a Junior Achievement course on Careers with a Purpose to a class of 9th graders. Standing in front of the kids in all our employed and self-righteous volunteer glory, we waxed poetic on our own values and how they’ve served to guide our career decisions post-graduation. If you’ve read any of Kat’s previous entries about volunteerism and why she’s chosen to complete a year with AmeriCorps, it’s easy to picture how eloquently and passionately she spoke about pursuing a career path that fulfills a higher personal purpose. The “teenagers” responded by taking the stickers from one of our activities and slapping them on each other’s faces.

This made me slightly frustrated, before I realized that I didn’t have an attention span when I was 15 either. Mine and Kat’s frustration that the 9th graders didn’t take their values seriously, however, proves just how important they are to us. Our values determine and guide our moral standard, and understanding what makes us tick is essential to being happy.

That, or everyone should just run around with stickers on their face and call it a day.

con amor,

shan


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why I choose to serve: living in solidarity

“Volunteerism benefits both the society at large and the individual volunteer by strengthening trust, solidarity, and reciprocity among citizens, and by purposefully creating opportunities for participation.” -UN State of the World’s Volunteerism Report, 2011

I am over four months in to my year as an AmeriCorps*VISTA. For those of you who do not know, AmeriCorps is like the domestic Peace Corps. Its three different branches work to fight illiteracy, provide disaster relief, improve health services, manage after-school programs, aid community development, resettle refugees, and strengthen volunteerism in nonprofit and government agencies across America. VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), one of the three branches, strives to fight poverty by increasing organizational capacity through sustainable efforts. I want to take some time, as we navigate our way through the holiday season, to reflect on my experience so far and why I choose to serve.

Living at the poverty line

As an AmeriCorps*VISTA, my stipend is calculated so that I live at 105% of the poverty line. I qualify for and use food assistance. I have a scholarship to the YWCA. I can get discounts to local attractions ($1 for the science museum!).

The intention of this small stipend is to allow us to live in solidarity with the community we serve. The idea is that we will come to better understand the difficulties of living in poverty, so that we can better empathize and better serve low-income communities.

Goodbye lattes…

Practically, this means that I have had to be more conscious of where I spend my money. I have to budget so that I have enough gas money to make it across the Cities and back for work. I have stopped frequenting coffee shops and Banana Republic.  I have been more frugal as I begin Christmas shopping. But, I must stop and ask myself…is this poverty?

Applying for food assistance at Hennepin County may be the strongest glimpse at what living below the poverty line is like, although I would still argue I had an unique experience. Hennepin County is a large, crowded, and confusing building. When a person goes to apply for assistance of any kind, they can expect for it to take upwards of two hours. Luckily, I had the flexibility to spend that much time there. Can you imagine doing it while employed, with children, and lacking access to transportation?

Hennepin County Social Services Building. It is huge, crowded, and confusing.

Laura and I in our business casual clothing stood out like sore thumbs. We received a lot of “why are you here” looks. My caseworker talked to me like a peer, not a client. She told me about her bad day and how they were understaffed, but overworked. I haven’t had a problem with my EBT card or account yet.

While it went smoothly for me, for my roommates and friends it was often times a struggle. We have reflected on the fact that we all had trouble filling out the application and navigating the bureaucracy… and we are college-educated, native English speakers (see how we are constantly surrounded by our privilege?). And this is just a small glimpse into what it is like to live below the poverty line.

Living in solidarity

I am not trying to undermine what AmeriCorps is trying to do. Honestly, I think living at the poverty line is a great experience. I believe it is so important to understand and try to relate to the population I work with.  But, again, do I really live in poverty? Probably not, because poverty is not simply a lack of money. It is a lack of opportunities. A lack of access to the most basic things like healthcare, childcare, jobs, affordable housing, networks… but I have access to those services. I have my parents, who have graciously lent me their car, kept me on their cellphone and insurance plan, given me gifts in the kindest way possible, and always been there for me in a pinch. I have an incredible network of St. Olaf alums. I have a college education. I have met fantastic professionals in the nonprofit field. I have opportunities. I know my situation is temporary.

Yes, let’s live in solidarity. But not a solidarity based on what we earn. Not a solidarity based on the color of skin. Not a solidarity based upon our religion, sexual orientation, gender identification, native tongue, etc. Living in solidarity is so much deeper than that. Instead, let us live in solidarity based on our common humanity. An acknowledgement that we all deserve access to basic needs and beyond. That by working together we can all thrive. This is why I choose to serve.

I want to leave you with a quote for reflection that was introduced to me by one of my favorite college professors, Tom Williamson. This is a quote that really encapsulates how I feel about service and how I strive to serve others. I would love to hear our readers’ comments.

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Aboriginal Activists Group, Queensland, 1970s (Lilla Watson)

Thanks for reading. -Kat


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our first drive is the drive to actually belong.

For a bit of a pick-me-up after the Republican nominee debate this past Monday, Kat showed us this youtube video:

There are so many cool things about this guy.

  1. He can draw mega fast and his pictures of people and animals are positively adorable. Especially the drawing of the elephant, dolphin and dog. Gaaaah.
  2. He uses the word “shibboleth”. I had no idea what the heck that meant, but now I’m going to use it every single day for the rest of my life. And look how convenient! Miriam Webster provided me with a list of words that rhyme with shibboleth: Crystal meth. Isopleth. Megadeath. Morning breath. Oh, the ways in which my vernacular is expanding…
  3. THIS: Thought bubble at 1:13 – The scientist who wanders into the Italian lab says, “I’m hungry. Mmm…nuts.” After he breaks the nut open, the confused monkey says, “What’s he doing? Eating the hard things!” Finally, the baffled scientist says to the MRI, “Stupid machine. Are you sick?” and the MRI responds, “It’s not me, although the monkey doesn’t taste that nice!”
  4. ALSO: 4:51 – the first angel says, “Have you seen death? Big fella, skull, wears a lot of black…” and the other angel responds, “Mmm…can’t say I have. His name doesn’t ring any bells!”
  5. I think Jeremy Rifkin draws himself in some of the scenes, and if his caricature is true to life, then he looks just like my study abroad leader Bruce Nordstrom-Loeb. So cute. So wonderful.
  6. He speaks complete truth: “It’s very tough being alive on this planet, whether you’re a human being or a fox navigating the forest.”
  7. He brings up some incredibly interesting points about human nature and our capacity to interact with and understand each other on a basic, empathic level. Some of my personal favorite quotes:

“We are actually softwired not for aggression, and violence, and self-interest, and utilitarianism – we are actually softwired for sociability, attachment…affection, companionship…the first drive is the drive to actually belong. It’s an empathic drive.”

“Empathy is grounded in the acknowledgment of death and the celebration of life, and rooting for each other to flourish and be. It’s based on our frailties and our imperfections.”

Every day, we reveal our empathy for one another. Story: Thrivent’s Minneapolis headquarters is on the corner of 4th Ave and 7th St in downtown, right across the street from the Hennepin County Government Center. The Occupy MN movement has been stationed right in front of the Government Center, and hence right across the street from Thrivent, for the past two weeks. Though I see occupiers rustle in their sleeping bags and tout signs around the Plaza every day, I know little more about the actual movement than what I’ve been reading on their blog. Still, the messages they post echo enough universal philosophy that I can understand the spirit of the protest, if not the exact mission. At its foundation, the Occupation is about rejecting the secondary drives that Rifkin speaks of in his video: narcissism, aggression, selfishness. Nora, Laura, Kat, Anna and I resonate with those concepts; you need only look at the work each of us is completing during this year for proof. The five of us believe that it is much easier to feel another’s joy and share another’s sorrow than to assume you are unconnected to the lives of others.

On October 17th, one of the Minnesota occupiers posted the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City on their blog. The first sentence of that declaration is:

“As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together.”

I think Jeremy Rifkin would approve of that statement.

I’ll leave you with one last parting quote from the video:

“6.8 billion people at various stages of consciousness – theological, ideological, psychological, dramaturgical – we’re all fighting with each other with different ideas about the world. And, well, guess what? We all came from two people…we could have come from many. But the point is, we have to begin thinking as an extended family. We have to broaden our sense of identity. We don’t lose the old identities of nationhood, and our religious identities, and even our blood ties. But we extend our identities so we can think of the human race as our fellow sojourners.”

con amor,

shan