Dear Me,

This was originally written to myself, for myself only- but after sharing a tiny snippet, a couple folks asked to read it. My initial thought? Umm, HELL NO. But then I decided to listen to my own voice below and worry about the dry heaves later. The inspiration came from my stupidly-talented-artist friend Tom, who is in the process of finalizing a pop-up gallery show he titled Make, what you most need to find.” I asked myself the question What do I most need to hear? and this is what came out unedited…well, mostly- I edited out a few parts that were perhaps too personal- nobody needs to read me talk myself in circles about relationships. :)

Dear Me,

Life is scary and it will hurt- that’s ok. You’re going to take risks and some will break your heart, in fact, many already have- that’s ok too. You know what you love now, but don’t stop falling in love with new things and new people. It’s ok to be afraid, just don’t let it determine your steps. What makes your heart beat faster? Do that. Your hands may shake and your voice may crack- but do it. Face it head on. It’ll be messy, most good things are. Don’t be afraid of the mess.

Stop being so fearful of your own voice. You love to write so stop whining and just do it. Be bolder; your best pieces have been those that’ve induced some panic and even a few dry heaves. It’s not wrong for people to know you in this way- it’s uncomfortable and weird, but remember what I said about good things being messy? God gave you this voice, use it- some people won’t listen to you…so what? They don’t determine who you are any more than you determine who they are.

You’re never going to please everyone, so stop trying. You break your own heart over and over striving to make everyone happy. Not only is this not healthy OR possible, it’s kinda selfish- compulsion to act in order to make others like you is not nearly the same as moving out of the goodness of your heart. Don’t be afraid to say no, but don’t use that as an excuse to get out of the things that make you squirm in discomfort.

Don’t forget what you know about God right this very minute; that you are insanely loved. You struggle with doubts, you over-think things- it’s ok, don’t freak out, you’ll get through them as they come- just don’t let go and don’t allow them to be an excuse to do whatever the hell you want. Keep fighting for it. God will too- take comfort in that.

Learn to be grateful for what you have, comparing yourself to no one else on either side of the spectrum. There will always be someone worse off than you and there will always be someone better- comparing yourself to either robs you of true gratitude and turns people into statistical competition.

Learn to let others take care of you- this is not weakness. Being in need is weird and incredibly uncomfortable, but learn to embrace it when it’s reality. People love you, they want to walk with you- let them. People want to be the hands and feet of Jesus for you, let them.

Don’t forget to follow your heart- use reason too, but really listen to your heart, it will guide you far better, with more clarity than your anxious brain will. Learn to know when to let go and when to hang on. This can be a confusing one, but it’s vital. You’ve spent years fearfully hanging on to what you’ve needed to release, while also giving up on things that have just needed a little more patience and energy. There is a time for both, but it will take some discerning to figure out which is which- your heart will know, listen.

Lastly, give yourself a little more grace. You have been making mistakes your whole life and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll stop now. It’s ok to be imperfect- perfection is a lie. Nobody else expects you to have it all figured out, so why do you insist that you must? That kind of life is exhausting. Embrace the mistakes you make- it allows others to embrace theirs too, it’s not comfortable, but you’ll to be ok…I promise.


p.s. I still think it’s weird how proud you are that your favorite color is orange.

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World Water Day 2015- What are YOU going to do?

I will never forget the day that I was walking down the street in the heart of Skid Row and saw a woman, Susan, squatting in the gutter. I didn’t think much of it at first, things that in many places seem strange are fairly commonplace here, but I stopped when I noticed exactly what she was doing; scooping water in her mouth to drink from the run-off of a local vendor’s hose as he sprayed down the streets. I ran over to stop her, to help her find clean water, but she refused. I explained that this water would make her sick, but she stated “I am so thirsty I don’t even care, I’ll take whatever it gives me.”

She was later hospitalized as she was not only severely dehydrated, she became incredibly ill.

While it’s not necessarily impossible to get clean drinking water as a homeless person, there are places to access it if you know where to go, it’s not as easy to come by as one would assume in America. Drinking fountains are scarce and a running faucet is not easily accessible for someone who looks and smells like they haven’t bathed in weeks.

I take for granted the clean water that I not only have at my disposal, but often waste, while others would be willing to crawl into the gutter for it. Meeting Susan called to mind the summer I spent living in the Domincan Republic where I was told very explicitly DO NOT DRINK THIS WATER and yet, somehow toward the end of my time there ingested it only to find myself violently ill for days. It made me consider how often I call 911 for someone only to learn that they were sick due to severe dehydration. It made me think of the harrowing statistics I’ve read about diseases and fatalities all over the world due to contaminated water.

It reminded me how selfish and self-centered I can be and how easily I forget how good I’ve got it.

It made me want to be different…but how?

This Sunday, March 22nd is World Water Day. A day marked to recognize the immense needs and efforts being made to bring people clean water all over the world. Let’s all do something to get involved…it can be small- a small drop can create a ripple of change. (see what I did there?)

Learn. Educate yourself on the importance of clean water for everyone- it’s not merely about hydration- clean water is needed to create sustainable living, sanitation and economic growth.

Get Practical. While I think that giving money to organizations that serve people is great and incredibly vital, I am a big proponent of person-to-person giving. The best way I have learned to give clean water to someone in need is…to give clean water to someone in need. While I am not typically a huge fan of plastic water bottles due to their wasteful nature, I often carry some around in my car and my purse to give to homeless people that I meet. Consider toting a few around with you and spreading the love.

Take Action. In my quest for answers to our world water crisis and how we can all do our part I’ve recently come across a couple organizations that I’ve quickly become huge fans of:

World Thirst What I love about World Thirst is their mission to not only provide access to safe water, but they are doing so on a micro-finance platform, offering economic development as well- the key to sustainability. Being a young organization they are in “pilot” phase currently, but you can subscribe to them and follow when investment opportunities will be made open to the public.

Waves For Water W4W is a local Southern California non-profit that combines two major loves of mine; the ocean and clean, drinkable water in developing countries. On their site the offer of ways to raise funds, campaign and even go to the places as a clean water courier- come on, I know some of you have some surf trips you’re dying to take.*

*Let me know if you do, I am IN.

Lastly, consider hopping in your nearest ocean, lake, swimming pool or shower and giving thanks. I know that may sound a bit cheesy, but I for one don’t want to live another day taking for granted the gift that is clean, drinkable, swim-able, surf-able water that is so readily available to me. Water is life, y’all and it’s far too easy for me to forget it.

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Take Heart.

Today has been one of those days- one of the ones where the weight of the world feels heavy…like, so incredibly heavy. It started this morning as I was walking to a meeting on the earlier side of the AM and found myself feeling physically impacted by how many people I saw still sound asleep on the pavement. My chest felt heavy, my shoulders weak and each step felt like wading through swampy waters. As I neared closer to my destination I heard someone call my name- not “baby” or “white girl,” as are often the monikers hollered at me on this particular street, but my actual name. I looked down to find Mr. Harvey, a man who I’d spent my first 4 years with here on Skid Row. This man holds a special place in my heart as our first meeting was while I was doing outreach, looking for specifically for him at 4:30 in the morning on his birthday…which happens to be mine too. This commonality bonded us instantly.

At first glance Mr. Harvey and I have absolutely nothing in common- he is an older black man with a severe mental illness and a catalog of memories that I can’t even begin to imagine. But as he stated this morning, the uniqueness of the day we met, “our day” remains imprinted on us both.

It’s been a couple of years since working with the program that Mr. Harvey was in and I’d since heard that he’d left, but I never knew why- to be honest, I am not sure he does either. Seeing him this morning snapped something in me. As I sat down next to him, noticing his missing shoe I couldn’t stop the flood that felt like one thousand pounds of grief- grief for Mr. Harvey, grief for multitude of other men and women on the street, grief for the broken systems and hearts that got them there.

I’m supposed to be stronger than this, I thought.

I walked away feeling very, very human; limited, defeated, overwhelmed and as I often find myself doing, began to calculate what it would look like to get every single person off the streets into a home. Mid-calculation however, my thoughts were interrupted with another, In this world you will have trouble, but TAKE HEART, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

I stopped.

That’s it.

That’s all of it.

It has to be it.

I have mentioned before my struggles with doubt and continuous questioning of just about anything I can get my hands on, but I believe these words. I have to believe these words. Because if I don’t, nothing else makes sense to me. Love, justice, peace- none of these add up without these words. I have to believe that when God says that he is bigger than all of this mess, that He means it. I have to believe that there is something more going on than what my brain and my eyes can see.

I have to.

And so I will. I will grit my teeth and dig in my heels- I will keep fighting. It may be through tears, it may come with screams and there’s a good chance there’ll be a few of swear words, but today I will cling to this truth like a life raft in a storm; take heart.

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The Skid Row Fashion Police.


“Oh grrrrreat, Rachel has on her hippy bathrobe again.”

“Do you think she’s going to make us talk about peace and love again?” (not all that unlikely)

“No, probably just about global warming, recycling and crap like that.” (also not that unlikely)

“She’s cool, but man she’s a weird white girl.” (this is probably more true than false)

“Maybe this is why she’s still single, do you think?” (uh-oh, here we go)

“Nah, she’s single because she’s picky- she obviously doesn’t want to end up with a loser.” (preach, girl- said by the only woman in the group)

“No way, she’s single because she hangs out with us all day.” (partially true)

“You are all wrong, she’s single because she’s too skinny.” (bless you, sir)

“Well, either way, she’s single- and we need to get her fixed up so she can start having babies.” (no, no you don’t)

These are my people.


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I Breathed.

I’ve been sitting at my computer staring at its blank page for about 15 minutes now. Words seem to elude me as to how to begin this and really how to articulate much of anything at all. But my heart’s been moved, so I am going to try. To put it mildly, last week was ROUGH. Between the shooting on Skid Row, the passing of one of my residents and the heartache of some stuff going on outside of work, I wondered if I was eventually going to get to a point where my tear ducts just up and stopped working altogether out of rebellion. (Doctors, is this possible? Please advise.) To make matters more complicated, I was slated to fly up to Washington State to participate in and speak at the Washington State Leadership Forum. For those of you that know me, you know that two things can make me an anxious wreck faster than just about anything else; public speaking and walking into a crowded room where I know nobody (how I ended up in a position where I am forced to do both fairly regularly is still a lost on me), so to say I was hesitant would be a huge understatement.

As I got into Seattle and was waiting for my ride I received more bad news and just sat down and cried; I was 100% certain this weekend was going to be a mess- I was going to be a mess. I couldn’t help but feel a longing for my people- my home team; the ones who know me and get me…or maybe don’t, but at least humor me a bunch. I realized that it wasn’t so much that I felt like Skid Row needed me to heal from recent heartbreaks, as much as I needed them to cope with my own. I was fairly certain I was making a rather large mistake in being where I was at.

But as it turns out though, evvvvery now and then I am wrong…don’t get used to this, ok?

On the docket t-1o speak throughout the weekend were an incredible line up; the governor of Washington, several legislatures, the head E.R. doctor at the local county hospital, U.N. Ambassador and right-hand man to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ANDREW YOUNG*…oh and me. [What? No. This must have been a mistake, we should not be addressing the same crowd- oh we are? Okay great, I will just start panicking now, thank you.] I was reminded over and over by these community leaders that true change takes time and courage- BUT THAT IT CAN BE DONE. I was moved by accounts of peaceful protests and heart-changing metaphors. I was taken in by folks who up until walking in those doors didn’t know I existed.

*Want to see my freak out like a tween at a TSwift concert? Place me in front of a Dodger and/or one of our country’s greatest heroes in the fight for justice and racial equality.

But you know what my favorite part was? From all over Washington came college students desiring to live lives that will change the world- and I got to hear from them. You guys, the generation rising up- they are doing BIG things. They are dreamers and believers and want to make beauty in the ash. I can’t tell you how honored and encouraged I was to fie-2ld questions and hear stories of the hearts within so many of these students. Holy heck, our future looks bright.

This weekend my heart was handed rest over and over again and for what felt like the first time in days, I breathed. It reminded me that sometimes my biggest job is showing up and following through, even when it’s uncomfortable. It reminded me that God can do big things with our metaphorical loaves and fishes- even when we fear they are rotten and stale. It reminded me that I am not alone in this fight for peace. It also reminded me how important it is to get away, regroup, reevaluate and let yourself be loved as you love. We weren’t made to do this alone, y’all- thank God we don’t have to.

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It’s OK: 7 Things I am (Unapologetically) Thinking About.

“I’ve seen people drink themselves to death,” my former therapist told me, “but you, you on the other hand might very well think yourself to death.” I sorta laughed when he said it, as did he- this didn’t really seem like standard therapist-client discourse, but then again, I didn’t really feel like a typical client. When you spend large chunks of your day around therapists and psychiatrists the veil wears thin in regard to the magic often experienced by folks on the leather couch.

He was right though, I tend to think and over think about things that many find simple answers to. Some of those things have very little consequences at all for instance, my distaste for sport coats and lip-selfies, while others hold greater weight and meaning such as faith and belief systems.

Tomorrow marks my 7 year anniversary here at the Skid Row Housing Trust and to commemorate, while also staying in the spirit of the aforementioned, below I am offering you a glimpse into the ramblings of my mind- 7 things I have recently pondered while commuting to work:

1. Dating. Good God dating is miserable. There’s a reason the only time I’ve written about it, it was satirical. I am convinced that people who think it’s fun must be masochists and never worry about going to the bathroom. I am an anxious dater…which is not a shocker, I am an anxious live-r. I don’t get asked out some crazy exorbitant amount but for the reason stated above, when I do, I am always a bit reluctant to say yes.*  And don’t even think about trying to convince me to ask someone out, that will never happen. Ever. You want me, come get me. End of story. But recently something changed ever so slightly- I read a quote by Angelina Jolie where she stated,  “I always play women I would date.” I didn’t really think about it before replying in my head, ‘I’d play me. I like me. Shit, I’d date me.’ It sorta shocked me at first, I mean, I know my flaws and they aren’t pretty, but then I realized ya know, in spite of those, I really do like me. I’ve put myself through hell getting here, it’s been a long and rough road- so much so that I almost missed that I’d arrived at this destination at all. But I did. I find there’s a lot freedom in knowing that I like me regardless of what anybody sitting across the table thinks. That said, I recently met a guy and shortly after our introduction stated, “if you think I’m great here, you should see me on Twitter,” so I will probably remain single for a really, really long time.

*I imagined as I wrote this part my grandmother reading this thinking ‘Ugh Rachel, don’t say that- you need to make yourself available!’ as I laughed and refuse to press delete.

2. I think it’s incredibly embarrassing that Christians are willing to fight over the acceptability of yoga pants. There are way too many horrific things going on in the world (read: OUR OWN BACKYARDS) for us to be wasting emotional energy on this. I am wearing yoga pants right now. That is all the words I will use for this topic.

3. I consider myself a feminist, I believe women are equal to men and can do far more than history has allowed us to…and I hate the term “mansplaining.” It shuts people down and is not helpful. Do I believe there are men out there a-hole men out there that would like to tell me what, why and how I should feel as a woman? Yes. But there are also just as many who have really valuable things to say and/or are trying to understand what it’s like to live in skin other than their own and they feel completely disqualified simply because of their gender…isn’t that what we are prejudicially accusing them of doing? That word needs to go.

4. I am afraid our generation has become too sensitive and ready to throw down in the name of emotional self-defense. Hear me on this, I abhor offensive slurs and I will never stand for them- I would rather stand on the side of the oppressed over the oppressor any day of the week. Oppression is real and needs to be addressed with venom, but I fear that we are so emotionally charged that we jump on and want to crucify anyone who disagrees with us or misspeaks- even when accidental. We need to create more room for people to learn through healthy dialogue. It’ll be messy, it could be ugly, but it’s through conversation that we gain insight into what it’s like to be different than our own. I’ve been lucky to live my life amongst folks who are very gracious with my ignorance. They field my questions and gently point out when I am being narrow minded. I want to be like that. I don’t want to trigger-happy with bullets of fancy rhetoric and passionate prose, merely to say I have won and argument. I want to foster change.

5. I think moms should be more honest with one another. I recently talked to a mom friend of mine who confessed how difficult she finds motherhood. While it may not have been the most sensitive thing to do, when she told me that she thinks she’s the only one who feels this way I started laughing. I laughed because it’s just not true, I’ve heard similar sentiments from every new mom I know- and I am 32, I know a lot of them. Moms, get to talking, it’s simply not as comforting when I confess to similar feelings but am referring to mothering Bella, my pitbull…quite honestly, things get weird.

6. I think everyone else needs to be more honest with each other too. I am guilty of this. I don’t particularly like admitting to people when I feel like I am going to lose my mind or when I feel insecure or when I question our very existence. I’d really rather keep everyone believing I’ve got it all together and feel none of these things, but alas, I do. All of them. Almost everyday. The sooner we let those walls down with one another, the sooner I think we will find the real authenticity we crave- the kind that heals one another. In a recent conversation with a friend I confessed to him that I had a hard time trusting him because he was so honest and unscripted- and that made me sad. Sad for me, sad for him and sad for the current state of our society. I don’t think we give each other enough room to be imperfect or rather, be works in progress…but we all are, aren’t we? Let’s be better at this. In order to bring on this change we need to also be better listeners and acceptors of the truth. We need to stop trying to fix one another and simply be a friend. I am mainly writing this to myself, it’ll merely be an added bonus if someone else gets something from it too.

7. Faith confuses me. I will admit, I am a habitual doubter. I recently began compiling a list of all the things I question regarding my faith and good grief it multiplied quickly. I have questions about everything from creation to prayer to sexuality and everything in between. In all honesty, I often feel as though my faith is merely hanging on by a thread- but it’s a thread that has woven itself in and out of my life and held me together thus far. About a year ago I realized that I had, up until that point, spent most of my life teetering the line of commitment; having one foot in and one foot out all over the place, ready to bail when things got too uncomfortable. Relationships, jobs, plans, everything was held fairly loosely. In noticing this I decided to change- to follow through and to dig in my heels even when things were rough and uncomfortable. I’ve found this brand of tenacity to be especially poignant as of late, in regards to my faith. More than once I have found myself wanting to jump ship, thinking that maybe what I’d always believed about God was just too crazy…but I am beginning to think that maybe that’s ok. Perhaps doubts aren’t necessarily a bad thing and they certainly don’t merit the scarlet ‘D’ I once feared. I don’t think God freaks out when I doubt, in fact, if He is who I think He is, He welcomes my questions with more grace and freedom than I give myself.

I am learning to say it’s ok. It’s ok to be imperfect, to be confused, to have questions and doubts and to not always have the right answer. It’s ok to hate dating or struggle through motherhood. It’s ok if I spend 90 minutes reading about Bruce Jenner’s gender identity…wait no…no, that’s probably not ok. But it is ok if I think I cry too much and yet fear I am far too insensitive. It’s ok if I over think most everything and then make a mistake because I didn’t think something through. It’s ok to be afraid to open up to people and it’s ok to hate sport coats. It’s even ok if you hate yoga pants. It’s ok. It’s all ok. I’m ok. You’re ok. We’ve just got keep going, moving forward as the works in progress that we are. We are by nature learners and growers and are constantly changing and it’s going to be ugly and messy and totally weird, but you know what? IT’S OK.

It’s been a fun 7 years. I am lucky to have spent them doing a job that I love. Maybe next week I will write a reflection on that- but not today- today I am going to share this with you, panic a little, as I always do when posting something new and then over think what to eat for lunch.


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Better Late Than Never? A Year in Review: 2k14

I know what you’re thinking; it’s two weeks into the new year, you are way past due on writing about 2014, Rachel. Heck, everyone is just now ceasing from messing up the year when they sign and date things, if that’s not a clear indicator that you’re not on top of your blogging game than nothing is.

Oh, you weren’t thinking that? Well I was.

But alas, I am going to write this anyway. Truth be told, I’ve come to learn that I enjoy writing more than I do blogging- writing makes sense to me, it’s how I process and cope, it isn’t hard- blogging on the other hand forces me to do a lot of internet-y things that usually end in me wanting to throw my computer across the room. Am I old enough to become a Luddite yet? If not, am I important enough to have a HOBTH intern? Let me know if you think either of those questions warrant a ‘yes’ and then let’s talk.

As I reflect on 2014, there is really no superlative that seems to fit just right. As to be expected, it was a of collection of really great and wonderful moments, while also many that were less than so. This year I came out of the closet, got married to the love of my life and was flown to the White House. That is actually 66% false. While I didn’t come out or get married (I’m truly sorry if I got your hopes up that I am not in fact an old spinster- I still am), I did go to the White House to celebrate the success of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, that part was true…and incredibly amazing.

2014 brought with it some really fun writing/collaborating opportunities as well. In August Darling Magazine pitched me an idea to write a piece for them about mental illness, stigma and homelessness for their winter issue. I loved the chance to do this in part because it is obviously something I am deeply passionate about and was proud to contribute, while it was also exciting to see my words in print, sans hyperlinks and a comment section. (I’m still working on having a thick enough skin to withstand the blasted comment section of many websites.)

Along with that, I got the chance to hop around the web a bit, lending my words to a few different sites; here are some other favorites:

Single Forever! And It’s My Dad’s Fault! -This one made my dad cry and I bet he’s thrilled I just told you all that.

Dating the Dodgers


Addiction- An Interview With The Giving Keys

Aaaaand just in case you missed them, here are a few of my favorite pieces from HOBTH this year:

I Grew Up on Skid Row.

March Against Excess. -That time WE gave away a bunch of shit stuff. (40 of you told me you joined!)

I Am Not the Voice of the Voiceless.

At long last, I’d like to say thank you to you all for what you have done in 2014 to contribute to this journey. It still overwhelms and to be honest, weirds me out a bit that anyone is willingly reading what I write, but man I love it. I am thankful for each one of you who has reached out, liked a post, passed it on via social media or simply just read along- you make this process richer for me and for that I am just so so grateful.

Happy New Year.

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Me too.

The card was kind of dumb if you ask me; it read: “Name the animal you most identified with before getting help for your problem.”

What are we, 12? I thought, but then again, I’d chosen this exercise for our discussion group, I really had no one to blame but myself.

“Come on Miss Rachel, you have to pick another one, that one doesn’t work for people whose problems are more about their cars breaking down than anything else.”

I wasn’t hurt, I understood where he was coming from, but I also knew he was wrong.

I hesitated. “I umm…well…I have had bigger problems than that.”

“Oh yeah, tell us then; if we have to share, you have to share.”

That’s fair.

To be honest, I’d never really been intentional in withholding any of my past struggles with substance abuse from my residents. I mean, there are obvious boundary issues that I am very aware of and remained steadfast in even in my sharing, but in that moment, my gut told me that my opening up, even if just a little, was worth the risk.

And what I experienced in those moments confirmed that feeling. As I shared and answered questions I noticed a wave a relief and empowerment lightly graze the group.  I didn’t fully grasp it until one gentleman stated, “This may be the first time I’ve been able to say ‘me too’ to someone who wasn’t also in my shoes. I mean, Miss Rachel, you’re kinda giving me hope right now.”

Me too. I’ve always stood by the notion that those two words are arguably the most powerful words in the English Language. Who of us hasn’t felt relief when hearing the stories of someone who has been where we are and has made it out the other side? I can think of several relationships I have that would have quite possibly never been had we not bonded over a shared experience or struggle. There is power in those two little words and yet I so often hoard my stories, my experiences for fear of giving away too much or ruining my perfect image. (Because up until now you all thought I was perfect, right? RIGHT?!)

The group ended but not before I made it clear that my story is my own and theirs are theirs. No two individuals are the same and even in my own struggles I cannot claim to understand each person’s pain. In fact, I shared with them how lucky I was (am) to have parents that relentlessly loved me and wouldn’t have given up on me if I begged them too and the monetary ability to ensure that they wouldn’t have to. I hesitated to share this, knowing that very few of them could say the same, but it’s true – I was lucky. Not better, not worse, just lucky.

I left the group a bit emotionally hungover, sharing your weaknesses shit is hard, you guys. But I also left lighter, encouraged and gob smacked that my story from years ago could directly impact the lives of the folks I care so much about today. So often I think my sharing is all about my healing, which is probably why I’d never talked about this stuff with them before, but in that group I was reminded that the power of vulnerability and storytelling goes both ways. And that day it was my honor to hear those two words muttered back to me by a group of men whose lives have looked very, very different than mine  and yet, “me too,” they replied. Continue reading

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Playing Favorites.

Ms. WB: Miss Rachel, you just turned 32? That’s a great year! I had my favorite child when I was 32.

Me: I thought mom’s weren’t supposed to have favorites?

Ms. WB: Uh-oh, if that’s what your mama told you then it means your brother is hers.


Well crap. (But let’s be honest, I always suspected this.)

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Miley Cyrus, an Ice Bucket and a Hipster Walk Into a Bar…

Alright, alright, alright, enough of you dear folks have written to me asking me my thoughts on Hannah Montana…err Miley Cyrus’ MTV VMA stunt on Sunday that I felt I really ought to address it. Truthfully, I have put it off all day, mainly due to the fact that I am about to defend Hannah…err Miley and that is not something I have ever wanted to do.

Sunday night, for those of you that missed it and/or are too lazy to click on the above link, Miley Cyrus, instead of personally accepting her MTV VMA award for her video Wrecking Ball, sent a 22-year-old (homeless? formerly homeless? this was never made clear) gentleman on stage to accept the award on her behalf and make a speech challenging viewers to join Miley in championing the cause to care for homeless youth in LA. On her Facebook page she encourages folks to donate with the incentive to enter a lottery in which there is a chance to win a trip to Rio with her.

miley-cyrus-vmas-homeless-4Truthfully, my first thoughts when seeing this and learning of the contest were, “oh brother, this was so clearly a publicity stunt, if anyone falls for the idea that this is coming from her heart they are a moron.” And you know what? I still kind of think that. (I’m sorry, I drank the Miley haterade after last year’s VMAs and that’s very hard high to come down from.)

But the reality is, whether from her heart or not (and I mean honestly, I have never met the little twerker, I have very little right to judge) thousands of people got a glimpse of this young man’s story and whether they chose to ignore it or not were challenged with his bold and powerful statement, “The music industry will make over $7 billion this year, and outside these doors are 54,000 human beings who have no place to call home,” which is very, very accurate and something worth considering when deciding where to put your dollar.

I don’t believe Miley executed this perfectly, it annoyed me that she sat on the ledge and cried into the camera, that felt a little gross, but if I’m being honest, I don’t believe that her actions at the VMA’s are all that different from yours or mine. In our most truthful moments we would all have to admit that we have done things that even if not our total intention, have been spurred on by our desire for praise — and heck, she raised a ton of money and spread awareness in her wake.

Truth be told, this concept is one that I worry about quite often. I am constantly in fear of writing about my experiences here on Skid Row for any benefit anything other than that of these folks I serve. I am afraid of crossing that fine line and exploiting people that I really care about and I am terrified of the idea that any person could ever read what I write and walk away thinking that I am showing off or get the impression that I am doing/saying any of this for applause. But then I hear stories from friends and readers, I get asked questions and dialogue begins and I am reminded that this is advocacy.

Yes, sometimes advocacy looks like humbly and quietly donating money to a cause you believe in- there is certainly a time for that. But other times advocacy needs to be a little louder, it needs to looks like running a marathon and begging your friends for cash. It needs to look like posting a facebook status standing up for what you believe in, even if met with opposition. It needs to look like speaking up to defend “the other,” even when it’s not favorably met. Sometimes it even needs to look like dumping ice water on your head, all in an effort to scream “I AM IN THIS WITH YOU.”

You will be met with opposition. People on the other side will be mad and argue that you’re wrong. But please my friends, please press on, we need you.

And in return, I promise to do my best to put aside the hipster cynicism that runs through my veins. The part of me that questions people’s intentions and balks at efforts that look different than mine. The part of me that thinks nothing popular could possibly be effective or the part that is simply arrogant enough to think that if it wasn’t my idea, it wasn’t a good one.

I think we still have a long way to go in this thing, but I believe that something good is happening.

So thank you Hannah Mon…dammit, Miley. (I will get this sooner or later.) Thank you for dumping the proverbial bucket of ice water on your head in the name of our homeless brothers and sisters. Run along now and grab yourself a towel before you meet up with your dad to twerk to Achy Breaky Heart.*



*Dear lord in heaven Miley, if you ever actually do this, please do not post a video of it, I simply will not be able to defend that.


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