Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Only In Seattle

Between yesterday and today's papers, there were three stories about three different people. I found all of them to be fascinating and inspirational. What is it they say? Marching to a different drummer?

1. Only in Seattle is someone able to be simultaneously a Christian leader living his faith and a political activist outspoken and in favor of the legalization of marijuana. That person would be Rick Steves. Rick Steves lives in Edmonds and is a travel book guru, has a travel business, Europe Through the Back Door, and travel shows on PBS. In all of my family's travels, we have relied on Rick Steves' books for guidance as if they were the Gospels. We follow his money saving tips, restaurant and sightseeing recommendations religiously. Some of his accomodations haven't worked well for us so we have found alternatives. I don't think he cares if he has a comfortable bed to sleep in--we do.

Rick Steves was an opponent of the Iraq war before it ever began. He has been a critic of the Bush administration even when Bush's approval numbers were 80% and he has decried the loss of America's credibility throughout the world. Some people would like to call someone like this unpatriotic. I call him a super patriot because he loves our country and he honors the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights by exercising his citizenship to the max.

He and his wife are incredibly generous. They started Trinity Place which provides temporary housing and help to homeless mothers and children. The project started with a purchase of duplexes near his Lutheran church. He also supports Bread for the World:

"Steves likes lending to the visibility of advocacy groups that lobby on important issues often overlooked in government, specifically hunger and homelessness.

He supports Bread for the World, a Christian citizen's movement.

"They've been my No. 1 service," Steves said. "They tell our legislators what I think is important. Our nation can legislate with the needs of homeless and hungry people in mind."
Steves has given Bread for the World free underwriting on his TV show..."

In addition, he has been outspoken about homophobia and our need to take care of our environment. What do I love most about him? Even more than that great little restaurant on a side street in Venice we went to because of him??

He doesn't give a rip if people disagree with him. He lives his values openly and honestly. Not once has he ever thought, "Ooooo. I don't want my position on that risky topic to get out for fear it may hurt the travel business." Nope--doesn't care. And believe me, his business has not suffered.

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Rick Steves Betty Udesen/Seattle Times

2. Only in Seattle is a homeless tree house inhabitant given another chance. The man, nick- named Squirrelman, built an elaborate tree house under the freeway. Yes, in Seattle, trees grow everywhere--even under the freeway. In a way, in my view, he is not technically homeless because being resourceful, he came up with a type of home for himself. Nevertheless, he will be homeless as the WSDOT has evicted him and they have not given him much time. The neighbors have come to like the guy. I mean, how can you not love a guy who hugs golden retrievers?

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Squirrelman Joshua Trujillo/Seattle PI

What I love about this story is that two twenty-somethings who watched him build the treehouse over two years decided to help the man they had come to know and like. Twenty somethings--gives me hope about the future. They managed to get neighbors together to buy a used RV off of Craig's list for $500. But when the RV seller learned why the RV was purchased, he lowered the price---a lot---like to 1 cents.

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They didn't judge! Joshua Trujillo/Seattle PI

Some people would say it is wrong to help someone by giving them a hand out--especially a guy who has some skills that might translate to the workplace. This attitude chaps me. To me, it is wrong to judge or be critical of people in need. Period. We do not know the background or the stories or the whys or wherefores. In my view, it is immoral to require the homeless or the hungry to justify their circumstances before we house or feed them.

3. And the final story of the day: Only in Seattle does an obscure school girl become famous 13 years after she died. There was this girl who attended middle school and high school in Seattle. Her elementary days were spent in Kansas. Her Mom and Dad lived on Mercer Island where she attended brand new Mercer Island High School in the 1950's. She was not an ordinary girl. An only child, her parents named her Stanley because they had wanted a boy. Her friends and classmates agreed she was brilliant and intellectual. Apparently, she didn't give a rip about what people thought about her. Rejecting the idea of becoming the expected June Cleaver like most girls of that era, she asked questions--even about forbidden topics like communism or atheism.

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Stanley Ann Dunham

She didn't date in high school. Education rather than marriage was her goal in life as a teenager. She liked jazz, foreign films and coffee houses qualifying her for what was called a beatnik in those days. Eventually, she received her education and became an anthropologist who traveled and worked in different parts of the world including Indonesia and Pakistan. She struggled through a good share of her education as a single mother--unheard of in the early 1960's. She also did something else considered shocking and courageous in those days. She married her first boy friend, a black African man and then divorced him a couple of years later.

Oh yea, and the baby this rebellious intelligent Seattle school girl had during her brief marriage?

Barack Obama.