It was an unusual scene, to say the least. Scientists and academics stood in line next to young Tibetan monks. Aging spiritual seekers mingled with ambitious young Cambridge undergraduates. And they all filed, one by one, through checkpoints watched by hawk-eyed Secret Service agents with crew cuts and discreet earpieces.
Sand is still being swept out of open doors down the narrow church hallway when we arrive. I walk in a narrow file with six other medical volunteers, carefully balancing the box of glucometers and other supplies on my shoulder. “Where do you want us to put the clinic?” one of us asks the wiry parish superintendent in a yellow safety vest. “Come this way,” he gestures rapidly, turning briskly on his heel, and dodging through the jostling crowd of frantic activity choking the hall.
As November’s autumn leaves abandon tree branches, exposing them to winter’s imminent onslaught, the painful vulnerability experienced by low-income individuals and families due to the ongoing recession will be amplified by the pressures of the holiday season. The materialism of the holidays drains even economically comfortable families of both energy and resources.
Back in 2011, after saving a young woman’s life, Maxine Renning was left with a few reminders; four small holes in her back and a lifelong friend. Now as a 20-year-old marketing major at Emerson College, Renning is doing what she can to continue helping others fight against blood cancers.
Well, winter is here again. With it comes the annual homeless census, where people go around at night and look for people on the street and in shelters, add it all up, and tell us how many homeless people are in Massachusetts. I’ve always been skeptical of it, because the count is organized by advocates, but mostly volunteers who are not advocates take the head count, so I’ve always believed that the count is largely inaccurate.
Opponents of same-sex marriage had won 32 state referendums in a row, but their winning streak came to a screeching halt on Election Day, 2012. Voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington state added to the number of states where marriage equality is now the law, increasing the total to nine states and the District of Columbia. In Minnesota, a referendum that would have amended the state constitution to exclude same-sex marriages failed.
As someone who writes and organizes around issues of imprisonment and detention, my work is often met with a certain type of resignation. Though many politically-conscious people are quick to lament our nation’s chart-topping incarceration rates, they’re justifiably overwhelmed by the complexity and magnitude of our so-called justice system. Many simply don’t know where or how to begin tackling what amounts to the most salient, silent problem in the United States today.