Real Life on the Road

This photo depicts one tiny slice of our life on the road. I took this snapshot awhile back traveling in the passenger seat of our car. I am guessing that one of our 3 kiddos was struggling with the length of the drive or just wasn’t in the mood to be in the car (which I totally understand). But, even in all my mature 37 years, I still do not cope well with whining humans, no mater how big or small.

Enter – – noise canceling headphones.  The most incredible invention the world has ever seen.

Let me take a step back for a second. Now, I know a lot of people (myself included) track the wanderings of those who live the nomadic lifestyle. And, I definitely find myself believing that their lives are in someways so much better than average. It can be so easy to idealize this way of life. We certainly did, as we planned for our adventure over a year ago.

I must say, life on the road is incredibly fantastic. We have so much freedom and opportunity to connect with our people, new friends, and spend time with our kiddos.

With that said, sometimes, it is the exact same as life in one place. We still prepare and eat 3 times a day. We still struggle to get our kids to bed on time. We strive for balance in our days. Our kids do school. We clean our tiny house. We play games, go on walks and bike rides, and Daniel and I try to sneak in dates when we can.

There are times when I long for a life in one place. I want to have my own room, a place to retreat to. And in our current life set up, there is literally no where to go. All this to say, life is great, but by no means perfect.

So as I hit post on this blog, from a Costa Rican mountainside, I find myself yet again reaching for the headphones and longing to curl up in my own space. It will come soon enough. And then I will miss this.

Enjoy your days and moments friends.

With Gratitude.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Sightings and Encounters

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One year on the road.

Exactly one year ago, the Haver Herd hit the road for what was meant to be a 12 month epic adventure to see the country, friends, family, serve others, and finally figure out where and what is next for us.

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These past 365 days have certainly provided no lack of excitement. But we find ourselves still searching for what and where is next.

Drum Roll…..

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We have decided to continue our camper journey for one more year. So get ready friends and family! We will be back! This week we’ll see my Aunt Suzy and Uncle Bob before heading to Scotland to visit with good friends who will be traveling from Nairobi, Kenya to meet us along with my Aunt Kristi and Uncle Jeff. When we return in August we’ll visit with more family members up north along with a great friend/yoga buddy of mine from college.

We have absolutely loved seeing so many of our favorite people all over the country and the world. Seriously: family and friends, you have been so supportive of us this past year. It’s been nice spending some real time with you, and doing life together. Many of you reading this blog have rearranged your schedules, adapted plans, taken days off of work, and traveled to new places, just to see us. We are so grateful for your flexibility and for the way you care.

Here’s to Year 2.

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Matthew’s Blogs

Matthew has expressed an interest in learning to be a blogger. We have let him know that if he successfully writes 10 blogs, he can start his own site. He has written a series of blogs on a variety of topics which are included below. We hope you enjoy and feel free to provide any feedback in the comments section below.

Surfing

I stood up on my first wave in Costa Rica. I road about 100 waves! I totally love surfing. I took a lesson from Andray.

Lions

Lions are mammals. They live on the savanna and have manes. Last but not lest lions eat meat.

Biking

I love to bike. It is fun to go fast. My bike is blue and its name is water rush. I rode 10 miles in one day.

Dragon City

Placing dragons is fun. Place dragons where you want to. You can have a war!

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Feeding 5000.

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Food is something that all of us interact with on a daily basis. Through our taste buds, in our thoughts, the wafting of dinner through the apartment.

Most of us reading this blog have plenty. In fact, many of us have too much food. Each year, American’s throw away 40% of the food they buy! However, there are so many in the world and in our communities, who don’t have enough and the level of disparity is hard to swallow.

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When Daniel spent the day as a homeless person last month, I expected him to come back with something. For the 12 hours he was in the city, no walker-byer offered him a single thing.  The one meal he received that day, he had to “work” to get.  He walked over 10 miles for a jar of peanut butter and an apple from a community food pantry. The amount of gratitude that both he, and I, felt from those items is immense. But what I am trying to say is, we may think that the homeless and the hungry are getting handouts left and right, I’m not so sure that is true.

Feeding the hungry is something that Daniel and I are both passionate about. We always try to have food on hand to give away, but have also been curious to learn more about what others are doing to help. So as we have traveled, we have tried to volunteer with organizations that are feeding people.

So far we have had the opportunity to work with 4 community gardens in Montreal, DC, Oregon, and Montana. First of all, I just love gardens and learning about how our food is created. Second, I love the mission to provide fresh vegetables for those in need. Two weeks ago in Eugene, Oregon, we were able to harvest about 50 pounds of Spinach for the local food bank.

Another effort in feeding the hungry that I recently learned more about is similar to gleaning or passing on extra food to the poor. In Vancouver, Kitchen on a Mission, connects people who have a vehicle to a shelter and restaurants with excess food. We picked up 70 pounds of bread and drove it across town to a men’s shelter.

While we haven’t yet achieved our feeding 5,000 goal for the year, we are gaining on it. To date we’ve served a meal to 1,852 human beings, in the following forms and fashions:

  • 192 at a church in Cincinnati, OH
  • 500 brown bag meals with the SOMsistahs in South Florida
  • 450 Thanksgiving Meals At Branches in Miami
  • 250 Thanksgiving meals packed on the Pan Handle of Florida
  • 123 with community gardens in Montreal, Great Falls, Wolf Trap, and Eugene
  • 181 homeless goodie bags given out all across the US and Canada
  • 70 Kitchen on a Mission in Vancouver
  • 86 meals delivered through Meals on Wheels in Montana

I would love to hear your stories and experiences with reducing food waste and feeding the hungry.  Please share with me in an email or in the comments section below.

Be well. LOVE.

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Homeless Dignity Project (part 2)

If you missed Part 1 of the Homeless Dignity Project, please click here.

A man from India hobbled towards me and was staring directly into my eyes. It had been almost 4 hours since a person had proactively acknowledged my existence.

His words were fast and all seemed to blend together at first.

“So here’s what happened, I got this problem with my leg, I gotta use this cane but they let me out” he pulled at the white hospital bracelet, which dangled from his wrist.

“So how can you help me man?” he asked.

While I felt somewhat overwhelmed, it was actually quite refreshing to finally have a human being address me as fellow human being. I wryly responded “I’m sorry man, but I was gonna ask you for some help.”

“Whatchugot?” he shot back.

“I’m looking for a place called Martin’s. They give out lunch there. You know it?” I said.

“Ah man, that’s right around the corner.” He pointed just up ahead and to the left.

I thanked him and continued on. I turned down the final block and could see the colorful letters, which spelled out M-A-R-T-I-N ‘ S. As I arrived at the soup kitchen door I noticed a few younger guys standing there speaking Spanish, but strangely were not moving towards the entrance.

As I got close enough to push open the large wooden entry, the words on this piece of paper, stapled to the door, came into focus.img_3600

How could this be?

Is this for real?

Who can I talk to about this?

I tried to conjure up my best Spanglish to ask the guys if there was another place nearby that had food. They pointed me to a different piece of paper tapped on the wall about 20 feet away. This 11” x 8” detailed all the shelters and soup kitchens in the city of San Francisco, along with their address, phone number and the days/times they provided a free meal. In that moment, I realized that all the info in the world doesn’t help very much if you don’t have the luxury of a cell phone to get to your destination.

I started to panic. “Cerca de aqui? Sabes, comida gratis cerca de aqui?”

Unable to understand their response I raced back up the street to the closest bus stop. I had learned from my morning walk that most bus stops had a full map of the city. I started scouring for the street name of the only place listed on the paper that was open until 2pm. Without the use of a phone, I couldn’t simply take a picture of the paper, or even easier just ask Siri to look the place up for me. Without a pen, I wasn’t able to write down the street name, and in my state of dismay I found myself now second-guessing if the street name I saw was McKinnon (which was 15 blocks south) or McKinley (which was 20 blocks west).

I sat on a bench and noticed on the wristwatch of an elderly woman next to me, which read 2:06. It didn’t matter what the street name was – lunch was over.

I took out my granola bar and 2 sugar tabs as I sat there. I felt irritated, helpless, but most of all exhausted.

I decided to go back to my original plan and walk the additional 6 blocks to try to find the “Homeless Church”. Well, if you weren’t aware, there just so happen to be a few hills in San Francisco, and of course, these next 6 blocks were all straight up.

View of San Francisco streets

As I arrived at the cross streets of Rhode Island and 21st, which I had committed to memory the night before, I found myself in a wealthier neighborhood than near Martin’s. Unfortunately, there was clearly no church of any kind in that neck of the woods. Hesitantly, I stepped into a small store and asked the man behind the counter if he knew of any churches nearby that might be offering food. He said that there was nothing on the two cross streets I had mentioned, but there was a brown building 2 blocks away that might be able to help.

Physically and emotionally drained, I inched forward and knocked on the large door of what looked like some kind of community center. A petite Asian woman opened the door about 6 inches wide and asked who I was looking for. After a brief back and forth I discovered that they did offer a weekly food pantry at 3pm on Wednesdays. She kindly invited me to come in and take a number.

As I held my small slip of paper with the number 5 written on it, a stalky man wearing a Golden State Warriors hat walked over to me. He introduced himself as Carlos and said that this place had the best food he had tasted since he was a kid growing up in Mexico. He held up his paper slip with a #2 on it, and smiled broadly. While the community members continued to arrive and the paper numerals climbed towards 100, Carlos and I helped the staff unload the truck and get the various food donations organized in the main room.

As we stood together next to the empty truck, I noticed the same white bracelet on Carlos’s wrist that the Indian man who I had encountered earlier wearing.

“Everything ok Carlos?”, I gestured to the band.

Hesitantly he responded, “Yeah I’m fine. Got out yesterday.”

“What happened?”

“It was nothing. They got me pretty good this time. But I’m fine.” He stated.

“Who got you?” I pondered.

“You aren’t allowed to report it to the police or nothing. That’s just the rules.” He explained.

After a few seconds of silence he continued, “I just don’t know why they keep doing this to me. I’ve been in this thing for a lot longer than some of these guys have been alive.”

He described how his gang would sometimes do internal “training” on certain members. It turns out that this was the 3rd time that Carlos had been dropped off at the hospital, unconscious.

“It’s just the rules you know,” he said as he looked up at me.

And then he said something that will stick with me for a long time.

With water filling his eyes, he stated “I just don’t know what to do man.”

Now, I wish I could tell you that my response brought Carlos some deep insight or inner peace – that I could do or say something that would really help him…

But I couldn’t find a single word.

How do you help someone who has been in a gang for more than half their life, and doesn’t know how to get out?

As Carlos and I moved towards the front of the line I whispered, “I’m sorry man.” Focused on the food in front of us he shook his head, “I don’t know why I told you that stuff man. I shouldn’t have said nothing.”

I skipped on most of the pantry items and ended up with 2 small apples, a large orange, and a jar of peanut butter. As I walked toward the door, Carlos approached me.

“Thank you, amigo,” came from his mouth as he wrapped his good arm around me.

As we walked out of the community center, in our separate directions, I found myself praying in a way that I never have before. I begged God to help Carlos – help him to know what to do and who to trust. Help him to have the courage that he needs.

I also found myself feeling more grateful to the Father for the amazing support system He has put around me in my life.

As I walked back down the hill, I noticed how slowly I was chewing my apple. What a gift a simple piece of fruit can be. From the top of the hill I could see the entire city below, filled with millions of people engaged in their own daily struggles. At 3:25pm, my fear of not eating lunch that day had come to an end. While my stress from the previous 480 minutes felt enormous, the reality was that I would, in a few short hours, be back with my family, have a roof over my head, and a seemingly unending cabinet of food before me. I tasted each portion of my apple in a new way that afternoon.

img_3608-1I descended into the city and retraced my steps through the same dirty, trash covered sidewalks where I had walked just hours before. For some reason, the bodies that were strewn out over the pavement next to steaming bongs, broken needles and grocery carts filled to the brim with packed trash bags of belongings, seemed to have taken on a different appearance. I felt like I was starting to see each human, not for what they lacked, but for who they may be, in the past, present and future.

My hope is that I’ll never have to fully experience the true emotional duress of a person who doesn’t know when their next meal may come, or where they will sleep tonight. Moving forward, I am going to try to do a better job to express my respect to each and every person I meet in this life. I am convinced that dignity is the single greatest item that people on the street are lacking.

While we all may have felt the need to ‘give’ to someone at some point in our lives, let’s remember that sometimes giving the thing that doesn’t cost us a dime may be the most valuable gift of all.

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The Homeless Dignity Project (Part 1)

For years, I have had a unique desire to know what it feels like to walk in the shoes of a person who has no place to rest his head at night.

I have a vivid memory from when I was 22 years old. I had just closed my first big sale as a retirement consultant; picture Jerry Maguire blasting music as he sped down the highway after landing his main client Kush. I pulled up to a stoplight and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man sitting on the sidewalk. As I deliberately looked in the opposite direction, I noticed a bill sticking out of my wallet. For some reason, in that moment, I felt the seemingly strange urge to pass it on.

The elderly man nodded his head in gratitude. We didn’t exchange any words at first but as he sat back down I felt desperate for the light to turn green. We both sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity until his mouth opened.

“Can I ask you a favor?”

Hesitantly, I replied, “Sure.”

“Will you please put on your seatbelt.”

I clicked my belt on in compliance, nodded a thank you back in his direction, and then drove home.

Over these past 10 months our family has given out over 100 ‘goodie bags’ to people we’ve met on street corners, in city parks and seated outside of coffee shops. But how much insight have we really garnered into a single person’s life from brief momentary interactions?

Whatever preconceived notions I had about homelessness have been dramatically redefined while we were in Northern California earlier this month. On May 6th, I spent twelve hours alone on the streets of San Francisco. I had $4 in my pocket, a phone (only for emergencies), a granola bar, my diabetic pump and sugar tabs. In that short time, I felt curious, scared, confused, lonely, and exhausted. I am going to try to share with you the scope of my experience broken up over the next few blogs, so I don’t put anyone into a deep slumber all at once.

At 8:15am, I kissed Bex and the boys goodbye, as they dropped me off at the train station. img_3604I was dressed in my best ‘worst’ attire and while I found myself somewhat excited for the day that lie ahead, I was equally, if not more so, very nervous.

I arrived in downtown San Francisco about an hour later. While my mother will be horrified to read the remainder of this sentence, I deliberately hadn’t showered, put on any deodorant, eaten breakfast or brushed my teeth that morning.

I started walking towards the Giants baseball stadium, as I knew it was near the water and figured I could get my bearings down there. While I did have my cell phone on me, I had tucked it away deep inside my small backpack and decided that I wasn’t going to use it unless there was an actual emergency. That meant no GPS, no texting (except a quick SMS to Bex after lunch to let her know I was doing ok), no Google searches, and not even a check of the time.

The only pre-research I had done for the day was to figure out the cross streets of a soup kitchen which was near a “Homeless Church” that I had read about a while back. A pastor from LA had relocated to San Francisco a few years ago and felt called do life with those who were living on the streets.

So with that, I was off.

I found myself very quickly learning the “etiquette” of being homeless. Not a single person made eye contact with me over my morning walk through the financial district. Now that probably isn’t any different than what would occur in any major city, no matter what clothes I was wearing. But what I did find interesting was how people walking in my direction would very intently, and swiftly, move out of my path. In a black and white world, I found myself feeling very gray in the eyes of those around me.

For quite some time I stood in front of a glass covered subway map of the city. I searched for the cross streets where I hoped to receive my free lunch. While it only took me a few minutes to determine the best route to walk the 24 city blocks, I became fascinated watching the reactions on peoples’ faces to my presence in the glass reflection.

I walked by a place called Mercy House, which looked a little too nice to offer a night of shelter to a guy like me, but curiosity got the better of me. I caught the door before it closed from exiting patrons and made my way to an office with a title plate that read ‘Manager’. I tried my best not to startle the middle aged African American woman seated at her desk, as my words trickled out.

“Excuse me, Ma’am.”

She reluctantly glanced up from her computer.

“What do you all do here?” I asked.

Her stern response caught me a bit off guard, “The waiting list is very long, and full.”

“Is there a place around here that I could get some help?” I asked.

After a moment of thought, while staring at her screen, she replied “Housing Authority”.

I waited to see if she might elaborate any further but the sound of her fingers clicking on her keypad pushed me to ask another question.

“Could you point me in that general direction. I don’t really know my way around town.”

“You can just look it up on your phone.”

I paused now as the feeling of not belonging was starting to sink in. “And what if someone didn’t have a phone?”

“I’m sorry I can’t help you, the waiting list if very full.” she repeated.

As I continued on my 3+ mile walk in search of my lunch destination I found myself becoming increasingly more intimidated to even look up from the ground towards the eyes of other walker byers. I also felt a growing pain in my stomach as people cruised past me holding various delicious smelling sandwiches and other lunchtime treats. The idea of asking someone to tell me what time it was seemed like a mountain of a request but I was getting worried as the soup kitchen stopped serving at 2pm. I looked up and noticed a large stone clock on one of the enormous buildings in which both the little and big hands covered the Roman numeral 1. The realization set in that I needed to get moving.

I had more than a dozen city blocks to cover in less than an hour. As I trudged on, the streets became less filled with bustling business goers and increasing more populated with members who appeared to be outliers of the 96.1% national employment figure.

And then it happened as an Indian man limped towards me, staring directly into my eyes…to be continued.img_3608

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