Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Juneau Observations

1. Juneau has ravens like the Lower 48 has crows. The ravens run down-town Juneau. They are huge and opinionated. I was walking down the street wondering what would have happened to Christianity had Jesus not lived and taught in Persia, but rather Alaska. As I was pondering this, an audacious raven came down and gave me a sermon-full of her take. She was both hilarious and prophetic.

2. Of all the computers I have borrowed here each and every one of them use the weather page as their internet start-up page.

3. If you face the mountains, and you can still your mind long enough to breath through your eyes, the mountain goats come into focus. They dot the mountainside, but remain invisible to the busy, searching mind.

4. Residents of Juneau refer to the Mendanhall Glacier as “our glacier.”

5. They also refer to Governor Palin as “our Sarah,” but for different reasons and with different inflections and facial expressions.

6. If you want to quiet a dinner party, look out the window and ask in what part of Juneau Governor Palin lives. (She lives in Wasilla and is trying to move the state capitol out of Juneau.)

7. Of all the homes I have been invited that are built on a hill, the mail living quarters are the top story with bedrooms below.

8. Of all the homes I have been invited there is a big tray inside the front door for snow boots. And often baskets of big fluffy socks and slippers to don while you visit.

9. Cramp-ons fit running shoes. I saw them.

10. This is the first time in a long time that I have full lung capacity. The air is so clean and oxygenated. My mind is calm and clear.

11. The Silverbow Bagel coffee-shop serves bagels and Alaskan lox. New York has nothing on this lox!

12. I have developed a swagger in my big snow boots. Fortunately as my attitude gets intolerable, the ice humbles me and forces me to stop swaggering.

Three words to describe Juneau Unitarian Universalists: scrappy, interdependent, (radically) authentic


Falling Man, Connected Man

My host Bev Haywood and I were coming home from the JUUF book club. Just as we were pulling in to her garage, a man walking his dog twisted and fell on the ice. I jumped out of the car to assist. A neighbor also saw and quickly brought out a cushion to get him off the ice while we assessed the situation.

The three of us managed to gingerly get him into our car along with his dog, Earl, the sweet, black lab. Earl is dropped off at Pete’s house and his wallet is picked up. Off we go to the Emergency Room. On the way, Pete shares that he is part of the Unitarian Universalist fellowship in Anchorage. What are the odds?

Bev stays with him the whole time. Broken leg just above the ankle. Tucks him in at home. In the morning we go into UU mode and tend to his needs. That’s what Unitarian Universalists do. He’s in good hands.

Advisors on the Bus

I enjoy the ease of public transportation. And the education.

“You aren’t from Juneau, are you? I don’t recognize you.”

“No, I’m in town to do some work with the Unitarian Universalist church.”

He goes off on a tirade about how churches should pay taxes and earn their keep, because they do anything for the people. I respond that I didn’t know about the Juneau UU church, but that the Anchorage church voluntarily pays their taxes. He looks surprised and continues to assess me.

“If you were King of the Universe, what would you have the churches do?” And I reach in my bag for a pen and paper.

The rest of the trip is filled with fantastic suggestions. Riders around us get off the bus and new people get on and join the conversation.

  • Free legal advocacy
  • Mail-boxes for homeless folks
  • Adult foster care
  • Larger shelter
  • Free counseling for homeless men
  • Mentors for people newly homeless
  • Classes for newly homeless on how to be homeless
  • Micro-lending for newly jobless
  • Budgeting classes
  • Parenting classes so people don’t lose their kids to foster care
  • Parenting classes for teen parents
  • Parenting classes for grandparents raising their grandkids
  • Transportation for elders going to medical appointments
  • Programs to understand new law changes
  • More buses during tourist season, because they take over the buses
  • Family services
  • Affordable drug and alcohol rehabilitation
  • More severe punishment for hate crimes
  • Training for police about cultural differences
  • Training for churches to welcome ex-offenders

When it is my stop I offer my card and extend my hand. “Thank you for this most valuable information. I will see that the churches get this. I’ll see what I can do to work on these programs. I’d love to see you at church on Sunday. 11:00. 5th and Main.”

He didn’t come to church. And I wondered if he would be welcome. If he would feel comfortable. We’ve got work to do. I’ve got more busses to ride.


Frank said...

What great suggestions you gathered from a simple bus ride, Tandi! It gives me pause to look at this list and think about what my church is doing in these categories, or if it would even occur to us to do some of these things. The list seems to certainly have come from “working class” folks, and I suspect that these problems are lost on many of us in the Puget Sound region who are relatively privileged compared to your Fairbanks bus riders. Though, now that I think about it, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar list from the bus rider demographic here as well. The question is: How do we reach out to that group? I also noticed that all the suggestions you got were about actions, not beliefs.

Nathan Zahnd said...

Thank you, Tandi.

It would be difficult to express all that goes into my feeling that you really gained an understanding of Juneau.

But #3 has a lot to do with it, and a lot to do with everything, perhaps. I certainly connect with the truth of the statement, and I love the goats, and rarely notice them. But Occasionally I visit with them, and if you ever would like to I'm sure they would oblige us.

Nathan Zahnd said...

My invitation to visit the goats, or at least a mountain ridge where they often hang out, is open to anyone able to make the trip with me, btw.

Nathan Zahnd said...

Sorry, one more. Frank. We're "relatively privileged" in our Juneau UU Fellowship, too. Even our poorest members tend to rely on conveniences such as a car. And even our poorest members tend to be college educated, and have a difficult time seeing the reality of those who aren't. I am working class (blue collar, no college-but well paid) and don't own a car, but the bus system has been created to ferry state workers, and doesn't run early enough to get many of us in service to work on time. In Juneau we have public transportation for elderly and sick ("care-a-van") But I don't know how accessible it is.
Our fellowship (and faith?) could be more accessible too, perhaps.
I think this conversation (and with leaders like Tandi) could lead in positive directions.

I promise I'm done posting today!

Tandi Rogers Koerger said...

Nathan, my dear, you are welcome to post on my blog as often as you are inspired to do so!!