Flash Blog: Opposites
Flash blogs are short posts written to a shared prompt during community discussion time -- with a ten minute time limit. This practice helps us get used to blogging, stay in communication with our followers, and challenge ourselves to not overthink how we share with the world. See each YAV's response to this shared prompt below!
The topic of this blog will focus on opposites. More directly, it will focus on the ideas behind wanting and needing. Often in our culture today it seems that wanting and needing something are portrayed as having synonymous meanings. But what does it actually mean to want vs. need? In my personal experience in Tucson we have been greatly challenged to live simply and to directly confront what it means to “need” something. What is it that we need? Usually this can be summed up as a need for food, water, and shelter. But what about anything more? I have heard the calls of many people here and at home complain about wanting to fix homelessness, immigration, and climate change but how many of us actually go about wanting to do something tangible about it? This is not to say you should go out and start a nonprofit or do some other world changing venture.
What I believe is meant by this is we, in our personal lives (myself included) need to take more time out of our daily lives to address what we really need. What do we place value upon from our own personal experiences? Once we can identify what those things are and only once we can name them can we go about trying to do something about them. So what is one simple thing you feel passionate or feel a need to address and what is one simple thing you can change about yourself to address this? It doesn’t have to be something big or world changing because at the end of the day you can only ever really change yourself.
For this flash blog prompt, Alison asked us to consider a set of opposites we have experienced during our YAV year (hot/cold, tall/short, big/small). After some consideration, the set that stood out to me was documented/undocumented. These words are most often associated with citizenship or legal resident documentation status. And having or not having citizenship or legal residence defines the lives of many people who live in Tucson. But where I have most experienced the concept of documented/undocumented is through my work at Community Home Repair (CHRPA).
CHRPA receives money from a wide variety of federal and local government agencies. In order for us to help a client with this money, we have to collect documentation from them. The documentation requirement varies from grant to grant, but usually we need to collect items such as a deed to the home or drivers license or a social security award letter. There are some clients who have these documents readily available. Then, there are others who do not. The reason for not having the right documents vary. Maybe the have had their house for decades and lost the deed along time ago. Maybe the are not US citizens so they do not have a social security card. Or maybe they simply missed place them. This seems like a small difference. These two groups are only separated by the fact that one group has a few more pieces of paper than they other group. But this difference can determine if we can repair that person’s home or not.
Working at CHRPA has made me realize how much of our lives come down to having the right documents. These small pieces of paper dictate how we live. Just yesterday I needed to go the dentist, and because I had the right document (insurance) I paid a lot less for that service. You forget the privileges that are afforded to you because of the documents you have, until you meet people, many very similar to you, who just so happen to fall into the undocumented group.
I am not sure if this qualifies as traditional opposites (like hot and cold), but when assigned this prompt, the first set of opposites that came to mind were calm and stressed. The word stressed could also be substituted for busy, anxious, or overwhelmed.
I have experienced a sense of stress, anxiety, and busyness a lot during my YAV year. I would say that the majority of my days at work at the Florence Project entail a high level of stress. I have to make very difficult decisions almost everyday, and I know that my actions, or lack thereof, have a direct impact on the lives of individuals. I have also felt stressed when we have speaking engagements as YAVs. We have presented at numerous worship services and church meetings. In the lead up to those presentations, I feel worried about what to say, what the audience will think of me and of the YAV Program. Many of the systemic issues that we discuss and explore via readings, community events, or travel also leave me with a deep-seeded anxiety.
On the flip side, I have also felt very calm during my YAV year. The line between work and home is more defined now than it was in my life before. Yes, I often take work home emotionally (something I’ve worked on a lot this year), but I do not have “homework.” I do not have to stress in the evening about deadlines and assignments. Usually during the weekends, I can attain a certain level of relaxation, whether that be on a hike, playing board games with my housemates, or sleeping in. Sometimes just walking into our house gives me a sense of tranquility. It is a refuge where I can breathe and relax with my community. Perhaps confronting huge issues (yes, the same ones that make me feel anxious) has also taught me that so much is out of my control and that sometimes the best thing I can do for myself and the world is to enjoy a moment of calm.