Wednesday, January 22, 2014


For a thinking citizen of the world…of our country…of a city… social justice struggles are real. They are called struggles because the issues are convoluted and less than clear. The solutions likewise are difficult.

Social justice asks us to see realities in our community, and engage in compassionate discussions of what actions we can take. Not common tolerance, which can quickly become sentimental and ineffective, but giving ourselves in multiple, manageable ways. Here is a real change you can make.

Many major cities have a weekly newspaper discussing the needs of the homeless and addiction community as they increase our awareness of the struggles. The paper in Seattle, Real Change, uses individuals to distribute. The vendor must be wearing a badge with their name and picture. Achieving this badge is an accomplishment because the requirement is that they be sober. The paper sells for $2 and the vendor keeps most of it. We never leave home without dollars easily accessible in our pocket. We keep an eye out for the vendors as we walk Seattle’s streets, shake their hands and give them our names. It’s a small thing.

Hint: If you spot a vendor and don’t have singles, do not ask for change. Go into Starbucks and buy some brownies, get change and give both the brownies and the dollars to the vendor. We had a very funny experience in Chicago and should have known better.

When a friend of ours managed a day mission in downtown Seattle, he told us not to give to the panhandlers but to support the organizations that offer real assistance. There are sadly many men and women sitting on the sidewalk with a cup held out, but they have no bona fides to show they work “the Program.”  I hold up my Real Change, nod, return their eye contact, and they immediately recognize that I’m not minimizing their need, but I know….

Amanda Laughtland is a poet, artist, and teacher. She recently posted the following experience and poem (A Teeny Tiny Blog): 

“This poem is in appreciation of the man who sells Real Change outside the post office on Greenwood Avenue.”

In Front of the Post Office

"Hello, queen," sings the man
who sells newspapers. You wouldn't think

I'd be so charmed, but who else
greets me this way? When I leave

with my paper, I never hear
another customer receive the greeting

I almost believe he keeps for me.


poem used with permission


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