Addressing Homelessness through Presence and Play

Hans - painted face

THEY DIDN’T BECOME HOMELESS FROM RUNNING OUT OF MONEY. THEY BECAME HOMELESS FROM RUNNING OUT OF RELATIONSHIPS.

Hans Erchinger-Davis, executive director of Lighthouse Mission Ministries

The Lighthouse Mission serves people experiencing homelessness in Bellingham. And they have been at it for nearly a century.

On February 14 – YES Valentine’s Day, AND also Ash Wednesday – I had the privilege of leading 22 staff from the Lighthouse Mission in a 90-minute improv workshop. It seemed a perfect day – remembering that besides the red hearts and romance, love is also about suffering and enduring. And it’s about Presence and Play.

Hans and I sat down afterwords on the window ledge in the park building at Maritime Heritage Park, so I could hear his thoughts about the improv workshop, what it was like for he and his staff, and why cultivating presence and experiencing Play are vital.

What was the improv workshop like for you?

Hans: It felt very freeing, because we got to play together, and also learn some real life application. Especially in the work we do – working with people experiencing homelessness — there is a lot of relational give-and-take that goes on between staff and guests, among the staff, and its really fantastic that your workshop requires us to tune in to each other… to really hear and see what’s happening and be able to respond in a way that is helpful. There’s a real power in people feeling like others are attentive to their presence – what they are saying, and who they are. Continue reading “Addressing Homelessness through Presence and Play”

let’s be friends

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This morning I was reflecting on how Work and Play are often separated. And lo and behold a story spilled forth. : )

Once upon a time there was a boy named Dirk. He grew and became a man and every day he would go to the office and work. He dreaded these long hours, but he had bills to pay, and so he put his head down and just got through it. He was not happy in the least.

Meanwhile… Continue reading “let’s be friends”

the sweet spot

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Picture a bell curve. It’s a continuum with Forcing on one end and Avoiding on the other. In the middle is the sweet spot. It’s not a compromise of forcing and avoiding, but a different entity altogether.

If I’m in an improv scene and i’m trying to force one story into being, and my scene partner is attempting to force another scene, it does not work. (Actually it can get quite ugly.)

Alternatively, if we avoid stepping into the scene because we are thinking, “What if it doesn’t turn out like I want it to,” then the scene can be stagnant because you are missing ripe opportunities to show up.

This is true in life as well. When we force something into being – a relationship, a project, anything really – it may seem to be working out in the short term, but often – due to the forcing – you are pretending that things are ripe when they really are not.

And when we avoid things in life, for instance a crucial conversation* at work or your personal life, things fester. And in the short term things seem okay, but they are not and the longer it festers the harder it is to get out of avoidance. Continue reading “the sweet spot”

Yes, I’m diving in, And I’m not alone

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If ever there were a moment to Underthink It, it’s on New Year’s Day here at Lake Padden in Bellingham. It’s the annual Polar Bear Dip. And I decided yesterday that I would do it.

Here’s how it works: at noon on the dot, a bunch of people charge in the water, yelling and howling, dive in, and yell and howl some more as they make it back to solid ground. It’s quite exhilarating! And yes, it’s insane. I won’t argue with you on that point.

Yes, today the water temp was Continue reading “Yes, I’m diving in, And I’m not alone”

You should have seen the Look on His Face!

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[Or, ”I Want to Share My Joy with You, Part 2]

One of the gifts of St Ignatius that the Jesuits have carried on is the idea of Composing the Place or Entering the Story. I’ve done this here and there on my own and in Skagit County Jail in my jail chaplaincy there with Tierra Nueva. Basically, you take a scripture passage from the gospels – one with Jesus in it – and enter into the story in your imagination using ALL five of your senses. It’s an embodied experience. And you are basically doing Improv with Jesus as you go. [ I wrote about this in Fall 2013 when I did this with inmates and we entering the story of Jesus Calming the Storm ]

A few weeks ago I spent a week on an Ignatian spiritual retreat. It was a new thing for me. I was alone at a cabin on the Olympic Peninsula. Continue reading “You should have seen the Look on His Face!”

I want to share my Joy with you

fulani girl

Well it’s been three months since I’ve written.
March/April in sum: busyanxietybusyWakinginthenightbusyworkworkgogogo.
(And then at the end of April, as we say in improv with the swipe of the arm)… ” And….SCENE”   [lights go out]

*  *  *

Sabbatical as Salvation

First week of May. HoldenVillage. Glorious. Mountains.
Feet of snow still melting
Speed of multi-tasked life still melting
Cell phone, computer, car and the
BuiltWorld of their assumptions
Set aside, for the time being.

Space to embrace the rhythms of  Continue reading “I want to share my Joy with you”