In our neighborhoods, communities, county and country we like to have our poor, mentally ill and drug-addicted members hidden away. Is it because it evokes guilt in us because we feel we should do something, or fear that it could be us if situations were changed, or do we feel discomfort experiencing emotions we are unable to manage? Whatever it is, when a community's response is making ordinances to ignore the needs of their people instead of offering solutions, it is a dreadful message to the community members.

Before I moved here, six years ago, I volunteered in a Unitarian Church in a rural area preparing, cooking and serving meals. The people that came had many different reasons for needing food. Reasons included a job loss, family illness or mental health issues. Moving to Brookings and seeing what St. Tim's was doing for the homeless made me feel I had arrived in another community that supported those less fortunate.

When I was in graduate school, I studied different cultures that took in the homeless, and those in need for whatever reason, as well as places in our country. The goal was to make them part of the community , not ignored and hidden. The goal was never hoping they would leave the area.

A few years ago, I attended every meeting I could find regarding our homeless issues. During those meetings held at the county and city levels, I heard of many different ideas and alternatives, some with research to back up their success. Also, I became aware of grant money that could be available to Brookings. To my knowledge, the City Council has not moved on any of these opportunities. At one of the meetings where many church leaders attended, the mayor stated that it was the churches that should take this on.

Where is the leadership now? Where do we guide our children to view a local governing body showing responsibility and sometimes taking risks. A governing body demonstrating solidarity, equality and a belief in our democratic system? Where are our brave leaders ready to take the lead in guiding our community towards our values of equality, justice and truth?

When Father Bernie is chastised for being a forerunner in carrying a torch to show love, true faith and bravery, we should be lining up to help demonstrate our gratitude. This allows us all to see a path in finding compassion and love in our own lives. How many people feel isolated and a loss of faith in whatever belief that might be? Is it not because we are removed from the spirit of connection? Maybe just asking the question deep within yourselves is a beginning.

Marsha Thibodeaux



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