Are we living good stories?

Shortcomings

Well… here we are. It is December, and the time has come for me to break my silence. I am just going to have to own that I haven’t quite ‘hit the bar’ with blog posts so far this year, but writing has never been my strong suit. If you have ever come across any of my social media accounts you may have noticed that I almost never publish anything, and thus I never developed a comfortability with publishing parts of my life for others to see, let alone publishing my thought; my ideas. But to be quite honest, there are many reasons why I have not sat down long enough to blog yet. Many “distractions” have kept me from my computer screen. Some actual distractions and others intentional decisions to be devoted to my community, those around me, and the world. I am in no way sorry for this delay, if not only because I wanted to share with you sooner. I have been bursting and bubbling to share some of my thoughts from the journey so far. I even thought for a while that the reason I couldn’t sit down and write a blog post is because I had to much to share that anything I could write wouldn’t do my message justice. But isn’t that the point of a blog? I don’t have to convey all of my questions, quandaries, or quarrels about the world to you in one go. We will walk together, I will share my journey along with a pondering or two along the way, and we will all grow together through the human experience.

**Please note that I do not want to be the only voice here. I offer to you my musings, but I know that you, dear reader, are just as beautiful, brilliant, and vibrant with your own complex knowledge and experience to offer. And I would be humbled if you enriched mine with your own. Just like bringing two lighters’ flames together. The result: the flames grows, producing more light to illuminate truth.

Life in Denver

My life has changed drastically with my move to Denver, and since my last post on here. Let alone leaving Stetson in May and the non-stop schedule of school, but also the camp atmosphere (where your days are scheduled down to meals at 8, noon, and 6 everyday) my life here in Denver is much more in my control. I have lived so much in the past four months I don’t know where so begin (*see above section Shortcomings). A large part of that (ok, constantly) has been in community. My immediate house community is excellent! I have never had a better random roommate experience. I live with three incredibly intelligent, benevolent, and funny women, all working similarly in day shelters for people of varying ages who find themselves in homeless/impoverished situations. We have a TV that sits empty on a shelf the majority of the time, and I am grateful for that. We have lived more because of it.

Outside of my immediate intentional community, the majority of the people that I interact with are among the most economically and emotionally burdened of Denver (I do have to say, there is no better way to feel like you know a city quicker than to get to know the people who are always outside). We see each other, converse with each other, and get frustrated with each other just like anyone else. We affirm each other’s humanity in the simplest and smallest of acts. In a world that won’t make eye contact with you, we see” each other; I am using “see” here as the Na’vi (blue people) from James Cameron’s Avatar would (**not my original idea; don’t remember where I heard it; so glad not to be in school anymore).

Please friends, do not exceptionalize the work that I am doing. Nothing about this is exceptional. Nothing about this is special. It is happening all over; in your own hometown whether you see it or not. This is reality for folks who the system don’t work for. And this is not to say that the system ‘doesn’t work.’ The system works, but it is a system that very specifically enfranchises and disenfranchises certain individuals. How can we have resolve in a system that results in homelessness and poverty? I feel as though I have to share a quote I read recently in Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution because it fits so well with what I am trying to say here. Shane is quoting the Brazilian archbishop Dom Helder Camara, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.”

Imagine if we all asked more questions and call each other less names.

(If you want a little more info on where I work, St. Francis Center, check out my first blog post or look here: http://www.sfcdenver.org/)

Stories

Like I mentioned earlier where I have been living more, I have also been reading more. One of the blessings of leaving school is that I have rekindled a relationship with reading that is not assigned on a syllabus. This may be another reason why I have delayed the blog post (procrastinated writing with reading, unusual for me but I like it). One that I have completed here in Denver is A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller (also the author of Blue Like Jazz another excellent story). I will let you read it for yourself, but it has really got me thinking a lot about stories, specifically the ones that we each are telling with our lives as we live them. It is alway a very self-reflective exercise to ask yourself “Am I living a good story?”  I won’t dive into the ethics of good vs. bad stories, but I will say that in pondering this question I have found a resounding ‘yes’ response from my very core. And if not a ‘good’ one, then at least I am writing the story I want to be living. The beauty of this question is in the realization that you are the author, and the book hasn’t gone to the publisher yet! Donald Miller goes into some of the elements of a ‘good’ story, and one of which he identifies in many is risk. You have to risk failure for the glory or an interception for a touchdown (sorry, I don’t like sports metaphors but I figured most people could relate). I risked a lot of unknowns in my adventure to Denver so far, and it has made the successes of such even sweeter. I could not have asked for a better placement, so thank you to all who have supported me and continue to support me not only on this journey, but in every chapter of my story.

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Here we go!

Hello friends, family, and casual blog visitors! My name is Zach Evans. I am a 22 year-old recent graduate of Stetson University. During my last semester of my undergraduate career, I decided to devote the next year of my life to volunteer service in the Young Adult Volunteer Program through the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.   I participated in a mutual discernment process between the YAV Program and myself, which ultimately placed me in Denver, Colorado. There, I will be working and serving in the St. Francis Center, which is a shelter and service provider for people experiencing homelessness in central Denver. I couldn’t be more excited for not only the beautiful city that get to live in, but the opportunity for growth and servant learning through my experience with this community of “the least of these.”

The Denver YAV site is a partnership with the DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection). There mission is to “See the Face of God in the City” and they want to invite people to a paradigm shift as they challenge you to change your focus from charity to solidarity. I will be a part of their Dwell program, which is the yearlong stay dedicated to service, intentional community, discernment, and faith development. I will be living in a house with the other YAVs at the Denver DOOR site, but my intentional Christian community will extend farther to the community around me and to the homeless population that I will be working with.

One facet of the YAV Program is keeping up with a blog. If I am being completely honest, I am slightly nervous about this part of the program since I have never kept up with any sort of public sharing of my ideas. But at the same time, I am interested to try something new and see how sharing my experience and perspective on the world. I anticipate that I will gain a very unique vantage point surrounding issue of homelessness, which is an issue that I am already very passionate about.

As I mentioned earlier, I will be working in with the St. Francis Center, which is a refuge for men and women who are homeless in the metro Denver area. They work to provide shelter along with services that enable people to meet their basic needs for daily survival and to transition out of homelessness. On an average day, over 700 people will visit St. Francis Center, and that number grows to over 900 on a busy day. St. Francis Center treats everyone who enters the doors with dignity, respect, and love while offering them a safe space during the day. One of my goals in life and my future profession is to help those in need, this could not be a more perfect placement where I will be challenged and fulfilled!

I look forward to this wonderful opportunity and the chance to experience the love of God in new and beautiful ways. I hope that you will walk alongside me through this year and through this blog!