My buddy Makeesha's Blog Action Day post (here) began like this: "I think about poverty differently after having been poor. I grew up
middle class but spent several years as an adult below the poverty
line. I had to live off the charity of others for my shelter, my food,
my transportation. My oldest was born on state aid…" [read the whole post here.]
She mentions that "…if a church of 200 people making on average $60,000/year chose to give
their 10% tithe toward the crisis of poverty for just 1 year they could
fund an average “back on their feet” program in an average mid-sized
city in America."
Today, Wednesday, is Blog Action Day 2008; as of the time of my writing this, close to 10,000 12,000 bloggers around the world are uniting to open a dialogue about global, regional, and local poverty, to reach our audiences — estimates are 10 million12 million people will read our collective blog posts today via RSS and internet surfing — so that some actual good can be done about poverty. I predict some 20,000 bloggers will participate before day's end.
Many thousands of blogposts today will be dealing with poverty in the abstract. Today I wanted to blog specifically about my friends at the Relational Tithe (RT) and what communities (local and virtual) have to say about taking care of their (our) own.
"In our world of strangers, estranged from their own past, culture
and country, from their neighbors, friends and family, from their
deepest self and their God, we witness a painful search for a
hospitable place where life can be lived without fear and where
community can be found." - Henri Nouwen
Nouwen's fragmented, modern, western world has remained inhospitable to the poorest among us, for the most part. However, I wanted to paint a quick picture of the folks at the Relational Tithe who are conspiring toward a great reversal — poverty and need being countered by deep hospitality. The RT is a loose association of friends in different towns; some know each other from ministry circles, others because they went to the same college or seminary; still others who were once neighbors but now live elsewhere.
They believe that we live not in an economy of scarcity, but rather in an economy of abundance — a concept difficult to grasp, perhaps, in these troubled times — money only seems scarce because it is being hoarded by the few. The theological response to hoarding is willful redistribution (biblical "Jubilee"). Because some half-attentive reader is going to accuse me of marxism if I don't repeat myself, I said willful redistribution, one that presupposes a mindset change on the part of said hoarder. i digress.
"… there are enough
resources to meet the needs of every person, [and] the needs of each
person are the responsibility of all people. The beginning of
Relational Tithe can be boiled down to a question: “What would happen
if we all set aside a tenth of our incomes to meet the needs of people
A handful of friends from across the
United States joined in asking that question and committed to six
months of ‘relational tithing’ to answer it... " (RT website)
What followed was aptly named relational tithing, because it involves hearing the stories of specific individuals (typically only one degree of separation away from an RT member) and then agreeing as a group to meet that need: John's neighbor Susan had her lawnmower stolen; John, part of the RT, went to the group and shared the need; part of the group's tithe went towards anonymously buying Susan a new mower. Kari's mom has had to quit her job because of cancer; Kari takes her mom's story to the RT and her cancer treatment is offset.
This doesn't take away from the need to give globally as well; but it seems to be a strong antidote for our tendency to abdicate with our checkbooks. So get out there and do something in your own local context today.
i've posted before on my fascination with micro-housing. it stands against excess. it's quaint and comforting. safe. it's cool. minimalist and distilled. womb-like. every small house presents a good design problem. it eschews the tendency to amass possessions. a prophetic voice against "bigger-is-better" consumerist bent in me and for that reason, it also interests me as a follower of Christ. as an artist, these lilliputian sheds interest me as potential statements of beauty. and the spiritual introvert in me loves daydreaming about the monastic possibilities. i've dreamed of an art space / cell for years that would be like this. possibly something like the art silos in downtown san antonio.
i hadn't noticed until now, but the new york times has been covering this beat with regularity: today they published a story by steven kurutz about a tiny house built on the back of a pickup truck. one year earlier they published this about "high-style sheds". And back in February, Bethany Lyttle wrote "Think Small" — funny, it's a small headline which stands juxtaposed against the NYT "GREAT HOMES" section header (see photo, left). Lyttle also narrated a wonderful companion slide show where she shows the rural getaway of one Mr. Adams, a lawyer in San Francisco. Her narration says something to the effect that, "being in a small space makes the land seem greater," and she continues with this small profundity:
"the smaller the footprint of the house, the greater the footprint of the land"
these photos bear witness to that little truth. so maybe one day when my lovely overcrowded nest thins out a bit. in the meantime, i'll enjoy daydreaming.
all of these photos above are copyright the New York Times,
taken by Peter DaSilva, Michael Falco, Heidi Schumann, Alchemy
Architects, John Friedman, and Jay Shafer for Tumbleweed Tiny Homes.
It came in today! My advance copy of Jesus for President, the new Shane Claiborne + Chris Haw book for which I contributed 40 or so watercolor illustrations; designed by my friends Holly and Ryan over at SharpSeven. I'm really geeking out over how cool it turned out, thumbing through it like a little kid. It's cool to finally see the other contributors' work (several artists, photographers) and see how the whole thing comes together.
Please consider buying a copy.
It's four-color throughout, but somehow the price is less than $12 over at the big box place. I'm sure VivaBooks will sell it as well.
Here's an illustration I did, which you can see closer when you buy the book:
file under: filet'o'fish'o'war
Here's designer Ryan hard at work with his other love. This is fresh footage BTW:
Come to my house for a night of song and poetry and stories:
“Disgruntled with the American notions of materialism and Christianity,
[The Cobalt Season] set forth on a pilgrimage, traveling from town to
town relying upon the hospitality of old and new friends as well as the
grace of God to see them through, searching for answers and insight
into the questions they found themselves asking.” [Infuze]
We're suggesting $12 at the door to cover travel expenses; if you're not able to pay, please come anyway! If you're able to cover someone else, please bring extra dough. CDs will be on sale. I think they are $15 apiece and 2 for $25. Please RSVP via Facebook
Brian McLaren - “I just got back from Africa and have been listening to In Search of a Unified Theory nonstop for a couple days. I’m totally blown away. I really liked But I Tell You, but this one just soars. The lyrics are powerful. The songs themselves are so strong, so well structured. The vocals are perfect. And the arrangements are completely amazing. I thought of several of my favorite bands - Innocence Mission, the Weepies, and Sigur Rós. This CD should win a bunch of awards. Thanks for making it, man!”
is a new book co-operative established "to provide access to books—and everything they offer—to our communities in San Antonio. Specifically our target areas are the West, South and East Side communities that have lacked access to books for generations. Our goal is to provide a progressive alternative to the market-determined access of books.
"Underground Books will be the only community owned
bookstore in San Antonio.
We will belong to the community, not only through the usual co-op investment process, but also through events and activities that can bring the community together."
Here's the sign/logo I designed for the U/B co-op.
via willzhead, via the moleskinerie, via m-ch: "The micro compact home [m-ch] is a lightweight compact dwelling for one
or two people. Its compact dimensions of 2.6m cube adapt it to a
variety of sites and circumstances, and its functioning spaces of
sleeping, working / dining, cooking and hygiene make it suitable for
The m-ch has a timber frame structure with anodised aluminium external
cladding, insulated with polyurethane and fitted with aluminium frame
double glazed windows and front door with security double lock;
graphics can be applied for sponsors, exhibition and business use.
The m-ch measures 266cm x 266cm x 266cm. The ceiling height is 198cm and the door width is 60cm.
Inside the m-ch features:
two compact double beds, each measuring 198cm x 107cm, with covered cushions
storage space for bedding and cleaning equipment
a sliding table measuring 105cm x 65cm, for dining for up to five people
flat screen television in the living/dining space
a shower and toilet cubicle
a kitchen area, which is fitted with electrical points and features
a double hob, sink and extending tap, microwave, fridge and freezer
units, three compartment waste unit, storage shelves, cutlery drawers
with gentle return sprung slides and double level work surfaces
thermostat controlled ducted warm air heating, air conditioning, water heating
I've been waiting to announce this to y'all. My good friend Scott has launched the first Fair Trade sports equipment company in the US, partnering with the first-movers in the UK, Canada, and Australia/New Zealand. All their sports balls are certified to be stitched by adult workers paid fair wages and ensured healthy working conditions. They offer guilt-free soccer balls, footballs, rugby balls, volleyballs, and more.
I caught up with him recently in Seattle and got to hear first-hand about this cool new venture. He sounds surprised with this entrepreneurial first, but in many ways it doesn't surprise me at all. He's always had a head for business and over the years was always a great understudy to his dad who's also got a great business mind. He knew he wanted to be involved vocationally in social justice causes since the early 1990s, and the guy's not even 35 yet. I digress.
The initial inventory of footballs, soccer balls, volleyballs, and rugby balls are due in from Pakistan mid-September. Fair Trade Sports will spend the first 18 months focused on sales to K-12 youth sports leagues, college campuses, and web consumers.
Fair Trade Sports’ website is now live — "primarily an educational platform to teach US consumers about Fair Trade and how it applies to sports balls (e.g. no child labor involved, fair wages for adult workers, reinvesting profits back into local communities)."
Here’s the kicker. He and his wife (the lovely and talented Susan) are donating 100% of their after-tax profits to children's charities. This is the same idea behind the Newman's Own brand.
If you're a reader of soupablog and influence the purchase of sporting equipment for schools, youth sports leagues (like if you coach a kids' soccer team), or just want a new football to toss around, please support fair wages …
My friend Pamela still urgently needs support—of the financial ilk—in order to make her impending move to Nicaragua (to work with Food For The Hungry) happen. I will ask you on her behalf: please give generously. Many readers of this blog are more than capable of a one-time gift equivalent of a nice dinner for two out on the town. Or the cost of an annual magazine subscription that you'll never really read. Or a month's supply of lattes. Consider donating a monthly amount. Click here to donate and learn more.
i'm appending this to my last post: if you didn't click the link and find this, you might miss the excellent context of that photo: invincible cities, an interactive flash app featuring photography and essay by camilo josé vergara, sponsored by rutgers and the ford foundation, and designed by crimson.
soupablog asks: What is to be our philosophy of ruins?
Now that America is getting old enough to have them. This question ties into previous throughts about 'relocation to the abandoned spaces of Empire' as well. I'd like to point you to an excellent photoessay from slate [heavily excerpted and emphasized by me]:
Abandoned places—ghost towns and gutted factories, derelict dwellings and vacant lots—litter the American landscape. No longer needed, buildings slowly decay into battered husks. Molds and microbes break structures down into organic matter; animals and plants move in as people move out. Americans generally accept this kind of decay only in certain contexts: What is picturesque in a deserted mining camp can be deeply disturbing on a residential city street. And even in the ghost settlements of the West, the impulse to hold on to the material past is strong. But what happens when we let these places go? What lessons can we glean from their gradual disintegration? Decay erases certain histories. But it can release other stories about place and ecology that would otherwise go untold. ... Ghost town workers take great pains to "arrest" decay at some indefinite point of maximum ghostliness; never mind that these places owe their wracked and weathered charm to rot and ruination. ....When structures are left to their own devices, they melt instead of remaining frozen. ....In their unrestored state, the buildings recall the foolhardy capital that built the mine and the ultimate failure of the venture. The transience of human ambition is etched out in lichen on the iron of the former shaft works and in the moss that covers the rotten roofs. Letting man-made structures decay to the point of disappearance is not an idea with a lot of popular or professional support, at least in America. In the mid-1990s, however, sociologist and photographer Camilo José Vergara proposed a "ruins park" for the mostly empty urban core of Detroit. In his "American Acropolis," the vacant buildings would become habitat for peregrine falcons and intrepid plants. The prairie would reseed the city streets. People would gather to witness a "memorial to a disappearing urban civilization." Detroit citizens did not welcome the proposal. It mattered little to them that Vergara found redemption and beauty, as well as regret, in their husk of a city. In this slide, Vergara's photo of the derelict reading room of the Camden Free Library in New Jersey, a thicket of saplings reaches toward a tattered ceiling's filtered light. Historian Elizabeth Blackmar detects in Vergara's photos an "aesthetic pause," which leads us to wonder how we could have avoided the wasting away of these 20th-century landmarks—and to reflect on what we are to learn from their demise.