Of Wayfarers and Wayfinders


I am the Church Street Ministry Coordinator at First Parish in Cambridge Unitarian Universalist, and was asked to speak this Sunday morning on the theme of “journeying together” (and to throw in a pitch for volunteers for one of the programs I oversee, the Tuesday Community Meal, a once-weekly free sit-down meal in Harvard Square for anyone in need of nourishment.)

We’re talking about journeys today, and I, for one, can’t talk about journeys without talking about getting lost. So let me ask you a question first: when you’re on vacation or taking a weekend drive, do you ever get lost?

  • How do you feel when you realize you’re lost?
  • What do you need?
  • What do you do?

I’ll admit sometimes I get lost by design. Sometimes I rent a Zip and just go until I’m a little turned around. Like 10-15 minutes lost. A little lost. But people get lost for a lot of different reasons, and even when you’re really lost there’s usually someone you can ask for help. We have all kinds of wayfinding technology nowadays, but the old-fashioned wayfinder was just another person.

But let’s be honest: sometimes that person knows what they’re talking about, and sometimes not. I’ve lived in Boston for almost 15 years and I still give terrible directions of the street. Like, really, really terrible. But sometimes being a wayfinder is just about being there when someone needs you. (But having a charged smartphone is definitely a plus.)

Back in my early twenties I used to really love flying by the seat of my pants — and one day I landed with a thud in Cambridge Common, a few hundred feet from here. I had just spent about a month and a half on the Appalachian Trail — I was no match for the black flies of Maine — and I had about six weeks before heading to an orchard in New Hampshire for apple-picking season. I had this gap between gigs and about twenty bucks in my pocket.

There was a lot of rough-sleeping, sofa-surfing, and days spent in the air-conditioned luxury of the Boston public library. But I quickly found a community here — there was a shelter in Porter Square at the time, and the meal programs here in Harvard Square –Ordinary people willing to step out of their comfort zone and help me find work, or shelter, or a meal. I was a kid from the Midwest and it was an adventure but there’s a lot that could have gone wrong if not for the countless folks who offered me a nudge, a kind word, a little humanity.

I’m privileged. I was able to go from rough-sleeping in the Common to shelter and a full-time job in a matter of days. Many of the young people we serve here at the Y2Y Shelter and Tuesday Meals are living in a much more complicated world, and the zero-sum scarcity culture we live in has only gotten harsher for them. Not to mention the stress on our elder community, for which we have the wonderful wayfinders at Paine Senior Services. And that’s part of what we’re here for — all of us: to be wayfinders.

Now I’m going to give you some crazy facts. 

  • In 2017, an estimated 1 in 8 Americans were food insecure. That’s 15 million households, 11.8 percent of all U.S households, 40 million Americans including more than 12 million children. What is food insecure?
    • skipping meals,
    • eating less at meals,
    • buying cheap non-nutritious food and/or
    • feeding their children but not themselves.
  • Nearly one in every six seniors in America faces the threat of hunger and not being properly nourished. AARP reports that seniors face a healthcare bill of more than $130 billion every year due to medical issues stemming from senior hunger.

Sometimes food insecurity impacts people you might not expect:

Crazy right? And here’s the craziest part: 

In the US, hunger isn’t caused by a lack of food, but rather the continued prevalence of poverty.

Let’s think about that a minute.

This is not about the material reality of scarcity, but the culture of scarcity.  

Housing is a similar issue:

Giving housing to the homeless is three times cheaper than leaving them on the streets.

It’s good to be armed with the facts but it can all be pretty overwhelming when you think of it like that. So let’s think of it like this, instead: We have a wonderful community of resourceful wayfinders right here and we are committed to a culture of abundance in this space. So I’m going to offer a challenge (and not to worry, there are no Tide Pods involved):

We’re calling it the Tuesday Meals 1-2-3 challenge because honestly it’s just that easy:

  • 1 Tuesday in 2019 — there are still 40-something to choose from!
  • 2 hours — the serving hour starts at 5:30 and ends at 7.
  • 3-5 friends, family, colleagues or crew.

You’ll find some more information in your order of worship, but my challenge to you is to show up and be a wayfinder in this very special and Beloved Community. 


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