Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Why I live here.

Although the amazing nature surrounding us is invaluable and the progressive, forward-thinking city we neighbor is an incredible resource, full of culture, I live here because of people like the person who owns this VW Van. The bumper sticker on the left is a bit difficult to read. It says, "Speak Your Mind, Even if Your Voice Shakes."

That compassion, innovative, idealistic thinking, bravery and boldness are not just allowed but celebrated here is my dream. I hope with all my heart to find it a reality. Another bumper sticker I like a lot says, "Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History."

Yesterday, I wrote-out the calendar for the time after Sam and I return from Myrtle Beach and the time before he starts back to school (and hopefully I start work somewhere) in the fall. I added two Sierra Club sponsored hikes, two opportunities for us to listen to experts speak about space at the Morrison Planetarium on Mt. Tam and made new volunteer commitments.

One group I am hoping to become actively involved with is called San Francisco Connect. In 2004, our mayor, Gavin Newsom, started an initiative to fight homelessness on the front line, Project Homeless Connect. Since then, over 16,000 San Francisco volunteers have connected with 9,900 homeless people with the intention of providing access to resources and social services available to them as they move towards self-sufficiency.

Apparently, we have moved here at a pivotal time. The city is kicking off a new initiative where Project Homeless Connect will join forces with other organizations (Project Green Connect, Project Youth Connect and Project Tech Connect) to create one organization, San Francisco Connect, which addresses homelessness, the environment, youth and providing technology and internet access to underserved communities. I was invited to and am planning to attend their Launch Party on August 1st. It seems like a good place to meet like-minded people and learn about direct service opportunities.

Another project I committed to volunteer for (through Hands On Bay Area), "In Support of Women" has me directly interacting with women living in a transitional living (homeless) shelter within just a few weeks. The activity description says, "Share in an evening of caring, companionship, fun and games at this oasis for homeless women." Honestly, it is a bit intimidating.

While I want to help people and make a difference, it might be uncomfortable interacting with people who are different from me. But I know that without the love and support of family and friends I could be right there beside them.

Back when I was going through my divorce, I realized I wanted to find a way to help less fortunate women. It was such a difficult and arduous time for me and I had support. I had a college education. I am from an upper-middle class, white family and had only one child to support. I imagined how much more challenging the experience would have been for people without those advantages and decided I wanted to extend my hand to those less fortunate when I was able.

Now, thanks to so many of you who have helped me on my way and specifically, thanks to Cameron, who has encouraged me and provided physical, financial and emotional support, I am able. Last year in Chicago, when I volunteered in the call center of the National Runaway Switchboard (1-800-RUNAWAY), I was often the first and sometimes the only person who seemed to truly care about what was going on in the lives of the people who would call. I was able to offer assistance to people who seriously needed it. That was hugely rewarding. But it was over the phone.

Do I have what it takes to spend a prolonged period of time in person? We'll see. I just read these words on the St. Anthony Foundation's website (the group with the women's shelter). Nourish. Grow. Heal. Clothe. Shelter. Empower. Their missions statement is, "To feed, heal, shelter, clothe, lift the spirit of those in need and create a society in which all persons flourish." Those are all good things I want to facilitate happening. I'm thankful for the opportunity.

Shifting gears, yesterday, I also had an email from the Ocean Conservancy asking me to write my respresentatives in support of "wild, healthy oceans." I read about and responded by adding my name to several petitions. As a result, our governor, Arnold Schwarzenagger sent an email to me. He thanked me for my correspondence and said, "California's environmental health and beauty depends on concerned individuals like you." Soon we'll be having lunch.

Back on the Ocean Conservancy's website, I also signed up to participate in their International Coastal Cleanup on September 16th. They say they have coordinators in nearly all US states. They are working on keeping all waterways clean. Feel free to sign up and join me in spirit wherever you live.

Finally, I have been intrigued by an animal program I'd read about on the Hands On Bay Area website called Feral Fix. According to the Oakland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, feral kittens are an "epidemic." This program utilizes a trap-neuter-return approach. "T-N-R is a strategy used to solve the feral cat problem by humanely trapping wild, unowned cats in order to spay and neuter them."

In November, I agreed to assist with surgery recovery of treated cats. This morning, on their website, I read about the difference between stray cats and feral cats. "Stray cats can often be socialized and then adopted. Feral cats often cannot be easily socialized and adopted." Should be interesting.

While this sounds like a lot of activity, currently I only have two volunteer commitments in August, one in September and one in November. I only volunteered once in July. I get to do something meaningful and meet people who may become friends or even employers.

I've also applied for job openings within the Marin School District to assist kids who need help at school. Having a job I enjoy and a schedule that matches Sam's has been wonderful this past year. Wish me luck finding it again this year.

Call me a bleeding-heart liberal if you must. I don't mind.

I'm home.

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