Friday, January 27, 2006

Some of the characters that I have met here...

I never cease to be amazed at some of the interesting, if slightly odd, characters that I meet in my work here.
First, is the "bag man". This man pushes around a veritable mountain of shopping bags attached to a cart. It is really a sight to see. It is five feet long, at least seven feet high and probably five feet wide. I wonder what he carries in his bags. I see him all over my part of the city. It makes me sad to see him.
Next is Jean. She lives in a camper outside the shelter where I work. She moves her camper everyday so as not to get a ticket. She is convinced that the director of the animal shelter is trying to steal her camper, because she runs her own tabby cat rescue. (basically she just lives in her camper with alot of cats)
Donna is a middle aged woman with downs syndrome who is charming and affectionate, but incredibly emotionally needy. She follows you around the shelter, asking questions, asking how you are doing, never really leaving you alone. She says at least every few days that it is her birthday.
Werke is a stunningly beautiful woman of middle eastern desert who always wears snow pants and a sweater, no matter the weather. She is completely non-verbal. I wonder what troubles her to the point that she cannot speak.
There is Maria who is convinced that I speak spanish, and speaks rapid-fire Spanish at me every time she comes in. I smile and nod and reply, "No Entiendo Espanol. Uno Momento."

However, sometimes when I see a glimmer of recognition in Werke's eyes, I admire pictures of Jean's cats or I sing "Happy Birthday" to Donna for the third time in a week it makes my job worthwhile.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A new issue facing the service sector

Recently a new issue has come to light in the service sector. Suddenly social service organizations are faced with the task of determining policies pertaining to transgendered people. This is an often ignored issue in mainstream culture. We choose not to think about this very difficult and hard to understand issue. However, when providing social services, it cannot be ignored.
Shelters, including ours, determine services based on gender. However, for some people, gender is not a clearly defined entity. At my organization, we provide services only to women. However, if a person who appears ambiguously gendered comes to receive services, we ask them only once how they define their gender. If a person who appears rather man-like comes, but states that they live their life as a woman, we have no choice but to offer them services, for it is discrimination to deny them.
This is a hot-button issue facing us today. The social services sector is forced to adjust policies out of necessity, but I wish that the larger society could adjust attitudes, perceptions and policies to be progressive and accepting.
A huge issue facing us is the way that the other clients respond to our transgendered clients. Our women are not at all accepting, and we spend time each week addressing this issue with them. This is a unique Colorado challenge, because Trinidad, CO is the sex-change capital of the United States. I feel that this is more prevalent here than in other places.

World Religions and tolerance

As a part of our community day this past friday. we visited the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya outside Fort Collins. This monument is a buddhist monument to human kindness. I learned alot about Buddhism and I think that it is not wholly incompatible with Christianity. A lot of my fellow community members did not appreciate the discussion. I was upset that they felt that by engaging in meditation at this retreat center, they were somehow being disloyal to God. My roommate Jeff's only comment was, "Where was God?" That is not the point! Buddhism is actually not a religion, but a way of viewing the world. There are actually alot of parallels between Buddhist attitudes and the Christian attitude of Grace. I am planning on researching this a bit more.
I feel like we could learn alot by just opening ourselves to new things. I always try to approach my world with the attitude, "know that you might be wrong". I just cannot understand people who think that they are right. Jeff was just so convinced that Christianity is the RIGHT WAY that he will not even entertain the idea that perhaps someone else might have a better idea. Sometimes I get accused of being a relativist, but really, I think that I am just enlightened.