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The Cooing of Pigeons
My wife’s elderly cousin had moved into a nice care home to spend his final days. When I went to visit him, there was no television, and I asked him why. “Don’t want one. It stresses me out”. Every time we visited him, his door was open and he was out an about with his walker visiting people instead of watching the tube.
After he was gone, I decided to see what it would be like to go without a television, even for and evening. I went into our bedroom after supper, and just lay down to listen to the sounds going on around me in our house. It was amazing!
My son had spent the afternoon fixing me his special clam chowder, which was a nice gift with tomorrow being father’s day. After supper, my wife cleared the table and I could hear the swish-swish-swish of the dishwasher.
I looked around me on the bed, and there were the three cats and the dog spending time with me. Maybe they were there because I wasn’t trying to change them into something they weren’t. I do that to my wife, from time to time.
She and my son then sat down in the living room and I could hear them talking about nothing in particular. The sound of their voices was familiar and pleasant. It reminded me of the cooing of pigeons. I felt connected to my family in a way that had long ago been lost.
We do ourselves no favors by constantly filling our lives with the white noise of television. Take some time to turn off the tube, and just listen to the love that surrounds you in your home.
William E. Scott, Traverse City
My Peace Corps
I have a different perspective from Frederik Stig-Nielsen on serving in the Peace Corps. I volunteered in Niger, West Africa from 1980- 83 and count it among life’s richest experiences.
People join the Peace Corps for different reasons: to travel, share skills, gain new skills, etc. I joined to continue my education, live in an African village, speak foreign languages, and serve a rural community. I handed out medicine, shared household goods, and treated infant malnutrition. There were lots of ways to serve, once I let go of my preconceptions and learned about my community.
The author questions the Peace Corps’ underlying motives because volunteers are not able to affect change. In my experience, there was plenty of change: in me. I developed cultural understanding and an ability to deal with ambiguity and complexity. Early on, I worked with a young mother that had weaned her baby abruptly, leading to his severe malnutrition; we developed a peanutrich “broth” to ease his transition to hard food. Small acts have an impact.
Not all volunteers have a good experience. Some have ill defined assignments, lack necessary resources or support from supervisors. Sometimes Peace Corps can reassign a volunteer but mostly volunteers are left to fend for themselves—this is an issue that needs to change. The organization is not perfect; but pressure from current and former volunteers has lead to some necessary reforms.
My advice to prospective volunteers: leave your preconceptions on the airplane, get your inoculations, and prepare to be amazed. But prepare to be frustrated.
The organization’s motto is “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” While not true for all, it can be a positive, life changing experience. Many returned volunteers continue to work or volunteer throughout their lives. In my book, that’s value for money.
Ann McPhail, Williamsburg
I loved the front cover of the May 14 paper. Of course, I am a little partial as the man on the right is my son Andy, with his partner Joel. Your article was eye-opening, chilling, and reassuring... quite a combination considering the content. The lack of tolerance of homosexuality in the 21st Century is appalling, even though we have made great strides in accepting that gays are an integral part of our lives.
Thank you for helping to dispel some of the illusions.
Charlotte Betka, Ludington, MI
Emergency Shelter Fulfilling 2006 Plan
As the Grand Traverse community has been discussing the issues of emergency shelter and homelessness these last few months, a document has surfaced from 2006 that spells out some of the challenges we face. If you wonder how we got to where we are today, all you need to do is read this study. It’s all laid out here, and it is as true today as it was then.
What went wrong? In a nutshell: planning failed. At some point in the last eight years, our leadership, developers, the economy failed to create affordable housing. Now we have a plan for ending homelessness, but nowhere for those on the street to go. This is due (in part) to the lack of housing.
Given the national economy, the banking crisis, and Michigan’s economy, the incentive to build affordable housing hasn’t been there. If you recall, the City of Traverse City has been trying to find a partner to develop the depot property for years, and it is finally underway.
If affordable housing here doesn’t materialize, we better be ready for a swelling of the homeless. Our leaders must make affordable housing as easy for developers to build as possible until the imbalance we are experiencing is leveled out.
This isn’t simply a City of Traverse City issue; it should be a regional concern. Zoning plans need to identify areas for affordable housing development. Funding and leadership to create these new homes must be encouraged.
As the subject of emergency shelter is fiercely discussed at the city (where shelters should be located) Street Advocate hopes that regional leaders will get serious about affordable housing. Our city isn’t the only government that is responsible; the 2006 report discovered this eight years ago.
Peter Starkel, Traverse City (Street Advocate of Grand Traverse)