Category Archives: Personal

Riding to Remember Homeless in Central PA, May 1-8

“Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of man (or “the human one”) has no place to lay his head.” ~ Matt 8:20/Luke 9:58

Christopher Fitz training for the Homeless Horizons Bike Tour

Training for the 250-mile Homeless Horizons Bike Tour - post pneumonia and all

That pretty much summarizes my state in the coming week.  On Sunday, I leave Brethren Housing Association’s Campaign Kickoff Block Party for seven days on my bicycle, raising awareness about homelessness while trying it out as well.

Check out the full schedule, facts about homelessness and how we plan to highlight local challenges – and solutions – here:  Homeless Horizons Handout.

Of course don’t have all the solutions.  None of us.  Some people choose to be homeless.  Perhaps we need to find ways to let people be homeless.  But most of them, research says, want to have a place to call home, a shred of security in an otherwise insecure, changing environment.  And research also suggests that it would be far cheaper to us a society – monetarily and morally – to give them a hand up, rather then let them “fend for themselves.”

There are many solutions.  I hope you can be one.  Most of all, i hope you can ride along with me and my homeless shelter trailer next week.  See more at http://www.facebook.com/brethrenhousing or follow tweets @brethrenhousing.

See you out there!

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Playing with Forgiveness – Self and Others

Another Playback Theatre workshop is in the bag, and it’s been a thrilling ride. Eight intense hours with six others sharing a myriad of stories. By our conclusion at 5 PM, it was hot, and we were tired.  The day had been an intense sequence of stories and playing, and we’d struggled to name the common themes or “red thread” as we in Playback call it.  As we began to close, one participant suddenly interrupted, “you know what?  I think the ‘red thread’ is about forgiveness.”

The River Crossing Playback ensemble plays a scene of forgiveness  in Playback Theatre.I was bracing for a longer explanation, resisting another pull into a vast sea of discussion as I tried to facilitate a tidy ending. But that was it. “Forgiveness.” Hmm.  We moved to end.  And the more the day sinks in (now 36 hours old), the more it resonates. Sometimes the biggest gifts arrive at the most unexpected moments.

As with most workshops I facilitate, I spend the next day or so in evaluation, self-reflection and self-criticism. This one was no different. Even though i thought i’d wrapped things up emotionally with a spacious evening, the next day continued with somewhat humorous internal chatter of “what if’s” and “aw shucks.”  My practice of silent worship with Friends (Quakers) puts a spotlight on this kind of mental jabbering.  And so it goes.  Or does it?  When will i be able to just let it go?

The biggest realization for me, the facilitator is this: i also need to play our forgiveness.  Self-forgiveness.  The embodied art form that allowed us to develop a common story and process of seeking forgiveness (toward others) is also exactly what i need to enable forgiving myself.  In a world surrounded by disembodied media and disembodied social situations (including Friends worship perhaps), embodied arts seem to play an extraordinarily vital role in making forgiveness more than just a mental hoop to jump through.

This is about more than forgiving myself for choices made facilitating a workshop.  This is about the biggies:  the relationships i broke, the people i hurt, the family i grew up with, the anger i expressed, the jobs i lost, the people i let down, the oppression i supported, the victim i played, the ‘stuff’ i demanded, the debt i went into, the frivolousness i indulged in, the fear i cowered under. This could go on a long time. And i know i’m not alone. Most if not all of us have a decent list of self-forgiveness agenda.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that keeps us from forgiving (and fully loving) others. So how do we check things off of it?

More doing, less stewing.  That’s the phrase that came to me in Friends Meeting today.  We need practices to work through forgiveness.  We need to do, to act, to walk the talk. Just like every guide needs a guru and every counselor needs their own therapy, so every facilitator needs a forum where they can be facilitated. Can someone Playback me?

We are only as effective as our integrity – how much we walk our talk throughout our lives.  But many of us also live in an very impoverished world when it comes to natural, embodied community.   It’s often much easier to play roles – or escape them – than truly act – act out our true needs and our unselfconscious calling.  The task remains for us: maximize our real community experience, our embodied existence and our opportunities for honesty. Somewhere in there is a way forward to checking off all the “shoulda woulda coulda’s” of my last workshop – and a whole lot more.

Now anybody want to play that back?

The Jubilee Arts networking site is a place for practitioners to learn more, promote their own work and collaborate in this and other embodied, improvisational liberating arts. Click to find out more and play a part!

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A Time I Felt Alone: Sarajevo 1996

You see this hole in my sock? It is from this time. When i’m holed up in the house of Save the Children USA on a steep hillside neighborhood of Sarajevo.

My burned sock.

The sock, 14 years after being burned on a Sarajevo lightbulb, and still keeping my foot warm... well, mostly.

I am here because i’m looking for adventure and what do i have to keep me company but a turning chunk of cheese and a half-loaf of thick white bread. Why i am here in this house? I’m waiting for the driver from Save the Children to get back in touch with me. I’m waiting for some return phone calls from several other NGOs – a Bosnian woman, a Norwegien veteran of a half-dozen other major relief operations, an American conflict resolution trainer best known back home now for his affairs with trainees and students. But me, a 23 year-old male grad student with barely a clue or any similar post-war experience, i’m inconsequential. The phone doesn’t ring. It’s a drizzly May day, but even though i want to, i can’t go out to play.

The driver eventually comes by. Be barely speaks any English, even working for an American NGO. He tries German. I know only a few dozen words. Still we can smile and laugh, recycling the few words we share, “okay”, “brot” “telephone.” And he leaves again.

I get impatient…venturing out in the drizzle, i gaze at the highly mascaraed faces of the women downtown, the shops for which i have no money, the bombed out buildings still five months after the cease fire, just waiting to be rebuilt.

No body talks about the war, except the adventurers like me who came here to gawk. I walk back up the hill to the house, passing under a cable that still holds remnants of a tarp that protected people from being seen and killed by snipers. It’s all still fresh…and silent.

I walk into the empty house, stripping to dry off. The socks are the worst; i foolishly brought just one pair for these two weeks. But at least there’s electricity on now. At least there’s light to read by.

I hang my socks next to the glowing bulbs on the chandelier. Then dive into my book….

Ten minutes later, i smell a terrible burning odor, like plastic. I rush from my book to discover that my sock has fallen on the light bulb and melted a hole in it. Hey though, it’s salvageable. I can still wear it, and go on with this crazy trip.

So here it is. I guess I’m still going on with this “crazy trip.”

A recounting from May 1996, written as part of a series of contemplative writing exercises in the Lancaster Friends Meeting, March 2010.

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