Chalk the Walk: Video Blog 8-22-12

Sorry for the poor quality of the video, but what’s being captured in it is absolutely beautiful. After a shooting rocked the downtown Vancouver Hough neighborhood a group of people decided to come together and ‘chalk the walk’ with messages of hope, life, and love in order to reclaim those streets. (I wrote about this on an earlier blog post)

It was a lot of fun being there–it just felt…hmm…it just felt right.


Arnada Community Meal: Video Blog

This is a quick snapshot of our weekly Arnada Community Meal that we host here at the Arnada House. It’s something that we’ve done here at the house nearly every week for about a year and a half. Pardon my shaky hands in this video…it can’t really be helped. And pardon my high pitched voice…turns out this is what I always sound like and nobody’s every really told me. And finally, pardon my apologies…people who apologize too much can be tedious to be around. Sorry.


First Responders…with a dash of hope

Sometimes terrible things happen and there’s absolutely no reason why. Sometimes there are reasons. And sometimes it just doesn’t matter. I don’t know much about this story, I’ve been watching from a distance and am unfamiliar with many of the details, and…well, I’m not sure it matters. Our local newspaper, The Columbian, writes about it here: and here

Essentially my friends had a shooting happen not only in their neighborhood but in their front yard. What was so amazing, what was so beautiful was that my friend is a firefighter. So as the person to call the police and as the first person to make it to victim who had been shot six times he was fully prepared to care for this boy in ways that you or I would not have been. Even further, however, my friends family (including his wife and boys) are people who have spent the last many years learning to respond with love, grace, and compassion to anyone and everyone who comes their way. So not only was he equipped to deal with the physical stuff (and it looks like the young man is going to survive!) but their family has been an overwhelmingly amazing ‘first responder’ to the family and neighborhood’s needs as well. From coordinating meals for the victim’s family for a month to now coordinating a neighborhood-wide effort to honor the family through inviting a communal voice of hope with chalk (I’ll explain in a moment) they are finding ways to be responders with hope.

Once again, The Columbian writes about it here:

So here is what I’m getting to. If you live in Vancouver or Portland, I want to invite you on August 21st from 10:00-1:00 to join the Hough neighborhood to “Chalk the Walk“. Chalking the walk is a Vancouver tradition (and a very cool one at that) but this year at 1114 W 21st, Vancouver, WA 98660 it’s going to be a tradition marked with a deeper message when neighbors and friends counter the senseless violence that happened with messages of hope, life, and togetherness. Want to join?

Here’s the thing. I’m tempted to end this blog by saying something like “It’s not about Nate and Jasmine and how they’ve responded. It’s bigger than them. It’s about the neighborhood, it’s about you, its about…” but you know what? You know what the reality is? The reality is that we have so much to learn from this family, from Nate, Jas, and their boys (yes, their boys seem to always be a integral part in leading the charge as well!). If it were not for their posture of responsiveness to their neighbors none of us would be entered into this story. If it were not for their families core of love, grace, and compassion none of us would be invited to be ‘second responders’, if it were not for them this story would look very differently. So, you know what?, while this blog would probably feel better if I expanded it here at the end to include all of us as the ‘moral of the story participants’ the reality is that we’ve got to be learners here! We’ve got to learn from the Cook fam’ how to be first responders with a little dash of hope.

While we cannot (and should not…and I WILL NOT) try to pretend like any form of response at this point will dull the pain and terribleness of the situation–our hope, as always, is that God can transform shit into something beautiful. That’s what he does when we allow him to enter into our story. He doesn’t always get rid of the messiness (oh how I wish he would) but he is willing to enter into our narrative and do something magically beautiful. None of us know where or how this story is going to end, but because of this families willingness to enter into the fray we all are being invited to bring a candle of light into the bleak narrative in hopes that light might one day shine through it.

So will you join with us on August 21st from 10-1 at 1114 W 21st, Vancouver, WA 98660 as a second responder of hope?

We’ve been Craned!

There is something afoot in downtown Vancouver these last two weeks. Small origami cranes are popping up everywhere. From elementary schools to restaurants, from people’s yards to cafe’s, from random individuals pockets to grocery store counter-tops folded cranes are showing up everywhere ‘causing Vancouver’s local newspaper to even report “Cranes on Main a pleasant mystery“.

I love it.

We need more of this.

But where the newspaper got it wrong was that they ended their report with a request to figure out who the hidden crane-droppers are. No, that’s not the point. It’s not important that we know who they are, what’s important is that we join in! If you can’t fold a crane then when you find a crane try writing a word or a note on it leaving it for another. Or join in the F and 33rd movement and start doing hidden art drops around town.

A year or so ago a collection random people canvased downtown Vancouver putting up stickers that invited the question “I wish this was…” (which is another way of engaging the dialog of ‘what could be’)

While the stickers caused quite ruckus amongst some in the Downtown Vancouver Association their message was not lost on most: we need to find ways to engage the average every day neighbor to dream about what could be in their own neighborhood. We’ve got to invite people to be present where they are at, to value their neighborhood, to value Vancouver for what it is and for what it could be. (lets be proud of who we are not who we are not!)

Simple, subversive, creative, and fun acts like putting up cranes, leaving a poem, or asking ‘what if’ are all attempts to bring some life to neighborhoods. Rather than pursuing the “who” what if we joined in with the what and the why?

So fold a crane, write a poem, slip a card under a neighbors door, leave an inspiring quote behind at the cafe, chalk the sidewalks, be creative, make people pause in the middle of their busyness, be a part of helping us all to slow down and value where we are–because where we are is an important piece to who we are!

"What I Love About Vancouver…"

I absolutely love this. We need more efforts like this not only because it’s a cool and creative project but because it draws out the collective voice of our neighborhoods.

…and, yes, Matt did put my name up there…gotta love good friends.

It’s so important that we not only look to highlight what we value about our neighborhoods (rather than always identifying what needs to be fixed) but it’s crucial that we find more and more ways to draw out our neighbors voices. This is especially true in Vancouver where we have a major image problem. Our danger is to understand ourselves only in relationship to who we are not. In opposition to Portland’s mantra you often see bumper stickers that say “Keep Vancouver Normal”. We’re better than Camas and Battle Ground, but we’re still just the bastard child (suburb) of Portland.

Who are we?

Some people dream that downtown Vancouver might one day be Portland’s second ‘pearl district‘ which once again just says that we don’t know who we are apart from other cities! We live in a city whose name is overshadowed by our northern neighbors, in a county more well known by our gambling friends down south, in a state more well known as our nations capital!

Who are we?

On the east and north ends of the city you’ll find big box stores and sprawling suburbs. Downtown you’ll find lots of old empty churches, meth heads, and beautifully quaint neighborhoods.

Who are we?

It’s time we decided. And it starts with presence. Like those maps at shopping malls it starts with finding the arrow that says “you are here now” because unless we’re willing to pause long enough to value where we’re at–right now–we’ll never be present enough to move forward anywhere else with purpose, intentionality, and creativity.

So maybe a better question to start with is not “who are we?” but “where are we?” and once we’re willing to answer that question with some pride and awareness then we’ll have the wherewithal to look around and identify what we love about our developing city, it’s neighborhoods, its history, and most importantly each other.