Over the years I’ve had the privilege to speak to countless groups about homelessness and affordable housing. I’ve presented to 3 people in a church basement, 500 high schoolers in a school auditorium, and even to an audience of wrasslin’ fans while standing in the middle of the ring (thankfully I didn’t trip on the ropes climbing in or out).
What I love most about giving these presentations is seeing up close and personal how the people of Minnesota, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, you name it, see ‘home’ as the same things. People consistently identify home as safety, warmth, family, comfort, and a place to make memories. Most importantly, though, they want to do the work to make sure that all people have a home. In fact, after speaking to high schoolers and young adults I’ve often said our future is in great hands because this generation of young people is more engaged and aware of the world than any before them and they are ready, willing, and able to take action.
Recently, however, my presentation abilities were put to the test when I was invited to speak to Cub Scout Pack 150 in Roseville. Cub Scouts range from kindergarten to 5th grade and leading up to my presentation I worried I wouldn’t have the skills needed to capture and hold the attention of 20 young boys and girls even for the 5-10 minutes I was allotted. I have a second grade boy at home, so I know first-hand how chaotic the age can be and I was going in with a topic not exactly known for being exciting to discuss.
I had no reason to worry.
When I asked the kids what they picture when they think of ‘home’ I got the same answers I always get (with the addition of “a place to play video games,” which certainly isn’t wrong). When I spoke about The Wall of Forgotten Natives/homeless encampment not only did it seem they all knew what I was talking about, but most had seen it. When I asked for questions they had the same basic question as just about everyone: Why do so many people not have a home? In fact, the only real difference between speaking to Cub Scouts and the adult forum at any congregation was the velocity of the questions being asked. I barely had time to finish answering one question before the next three or four were being asked. The Scouts had a thirst to learn as much as they could and to understand that information as it relates to their lives. Certainly many of them also had a need to say something silly, but there’s always a place for silly and the discussion never went completely off the rails. The presentation itself was a complete success.
The only remaining question then was whether the conversation would stick with the Scouts, and at least in the short term the answer to that question is a resounding yes. I’m told one of the Scouts informed his dad on the drive home from the meeting that it was the best Pack meeting they’d ever had, and then during Thanksgiving dinner this same youngster led a discussion on homelessness with his family. Without a doubt, this is the best response to a presentation I’ve ever had and I can’t properly put into words how happy it makes me.
In short, it was an absolute joy to speak to these Scouts and now I have even more hope for our future. There are more great young people on the way.
I would love to speak to your group next. Whether it’s your congregation, a civic organization, book club (we recommend books!), or a pack of Cub Scouts, it would be my pleasure to share our vision that all people have a home with you. Please give me a call at (651) 789-6260, ex. 229 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!