A place to be

Posted on November 19, 2009 by elcaworldhunger

I’ve been thinking recently about how important it is to have a place to be. I mean this on several levels. The first is the smallest and most personal –  a physical house. A place to go to after work or school. Shelter versus homelessness. I’ve been thinking about this because I have a friend who has recently taken her child and left a destructive relationship. Thank goodness for that, but because she has been a stay-at-home mom, she doesn’t have a job or income, which is making the move difficult. Fortunately, she has supportive friends, a really great church community, and she is receiving child support. She’s got more options than many women in her position, but her situation is still tenuous. She managed to get a short-term lease on a small apartment, but has little money left over for food. She’s relying on friends and the food pantry to help out. She figures it’s easier to get help with food then shelter, and it seems to me that there’s great comfort in having a place to be.

A second level of having a place to be is in liking where you live, fitting in there, and having a sense of belonging. I’ve been thinking about this as a relative who was recently laid off considers having to move his family to wherever he can find a job. They don’t want to move. They are very connected to their current community. But ultimately, they have to have income. There’s a difference between having a place to be and having a place you want to be, and, I’d guess, a corresponding difference in the degree to which you thrive.

Which is not so different from some of what I heard in Mexico City a little over a month ago when I was there with the ELCA World Hunger Leadership Gathering. For all the controversy immigration causes in this country, it’s not exactly a first choice option for many immigrants, either. But like my laid-off relative, you go where you can make a living. My relative may have to change states, but at least he’ll still be in a familiar culture, he’ll be able to speak the language, and he’ll be able to provide food and shelter for his family legally. How much more difficult for the Mexican whose choices are living in poverty at home, or as an outlaw in the U.S.? Neither is a very good or fulfilling place to be.

And then there’s the Maldives. Anne Basye mentioned the country in her blog last week. They face the possibility of their entire country being submerged by rising sea levels due to climate change. Where can one bein that situation, when your country no longer exists? I read that their president is talking to other countries about buying land onto which they might relocate should theirs go under water. How does that work?! Do they just move the whole country? Do they become part of the country into which they move, or is, say, Australia willing to sell off part of it’s land so they can create a new Maldives? What happens when a whole country of people has no where in the world to legally be?

The causes of hunger and the interconnections of those causes is complex, and it seems to be that this question of where a person can be ties so many of them together. Employment, economics, land rights, land availability, governance, identity. No big insights here today; just respect for the complexity.

-Nancy Michaelis

Share