by Denise Moore
Although Columbus Day did not become an official holiday until the 1930’s there had been celebrations since the colonial times. Through the years this celebration has been accompanied by controversy. I won’t get into all the details but let’s just say that it isn’t really disputed that Columbus 1) wasn’t a particularly nice person, 2) never stepped foot on North American soil, and 3) even if he had, he would have found others had “discovered” it already and were in fact living there.
It should be no surprise then, that Indigenous People’s Day has been created as a protest or counter-celebration to offer some balance to our sweet little, “In 1492…” rhyme. In reality, the Native American Culture was invaded and these indigenous people’s home was never the same.
That brings me to another celebration that falls on this day, World Homeless Day. It doesn’t always fall on Columbus/Indigenous People’s Day; it comes around every October 10, but this year October 10 just happens to be on the second Monday of October. The calendar aligned to disturb me into thinking how these three days fit together. It challenged me to think about how privileged I am to live in a nice, warm home in the beautiful Colorado mountains that once served as home and hunting grounds for the Ute and Arapaho tribes. And I am reminded of a family trip when my boys were ten and thirteen and how obvious it was to them that the Native Americans were “given” the worst of the worst land available when “white man” took over their country.
In addition to the other celebrations, today is also my mom and dad’s 62nd wedding anniversary. At ages 92 and 90, they are in the process of moving out of their home of 56 years and into an apartment closer to shopping and doctors. Michael’s parents (my in-laws) are moving from their “forever home” as well.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “home” lately. That house where I grew up and my parents made a home for us is a huge part of my life. It wasn’t an opulent home by any means, but a good middle class house where I had my own room with my own bed to sleep in every night. I had heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer and protection from the wind and rain. I could even open the refrigerator any time I wanted. (I never even realized this was a big thing until I was in my 40’s and youth director to brothers who couldn’t. They didn’t have their own beds either because their family shared a small apartment with two other families.)
It’s not that my parents didn’t try to show me how fortunate I was. Every Christmas I gave my old toys away to the orphanage so those “less fortunate” could have something new to play with (and so my new toys would fit in the toy box!) They even took me to live in a third world war-torn country on the west coast of Africa for a year. Yes, I knew there was a disparity in life; but for much of my life I gave it lip service and served a meal or wrote a check now and again to make myself feel better but I also accepted it as the way things are.
Yes, this is the way things are. According to a United Nations Global survey done in 2005 there were, at that time, approximately 100 million people who were homeless, and in 2015 Habitat for Humanity estimated that 1.6 billion (1,600,000,000) people worldwide were living in inadequate housing. This number is hard to comprehend.
According to the universetoday.com on a perfect night under perfect conditions the human eye can see up to 9,000 stars. That is 178,000 inadequately housed people for each one. I don’t think is how Abraham imagined it when God had him look at the stars and imagine his descendants.
This is heartbreaking. It’s the way things are but it is NOT the way things should be! God’s house has many rooms according to Jesus. Are we not to demonstrate the ways of God in this world? Shouldn’t we find a room for each and every one of these homeless brothers and sisters? When asked what was of utmost importance, Jesus answered:
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.(Matthew 22: 37-39 CEB)
How can we say we love and then just accept this as the way things are?
When I think of this day, I see Columbus Day representing the systems of this world that promote division and inequality and the desire to have more even when that means someone else gets less, in that light, Indigenous People’s Day represents the oppressed who suffer from the personal greed of others and systemic problems in the economic and social structure of nations. World Homeless Day is the day of hope and action. It represents a movement where people can no longer be at peace with the way things are and feel compelled to make this world a place where everyone thrives!
This post is part of our October series Living into the Shalom of God.