What Can We Do to Make a Better World in Our Troubled Time?
by Bill HutchinsI know in our troubled time, many are asking, "What can I do to continue making a better world?” Part of my engagement—amid so may negative civil forces—is to support organizations that are doing good work, by giving money and volunteering. Central to my intentions is an issue that’s been growing in my heart—the relationship between housing and poverty.
I’ve taken on this pursuit through the Appalachia Service Project and have seen, firsthand, what Matthew Desmond writes about in Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Desmond chronicles the economic and psychological toll of living in substandard housing. I’m beginning to connect with some of the inspiring programs in our D.C. region and look forward to hearing recommendations from readers for organizations confronting issues of inner city poverty and housing.
I have also been involved with housing for those in need in Nepal, since 2008, through the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco-Foundation (KRMEF.com). We've built a school, a community center, a farming education center, and many homes, all with waste glass bottles, earthen plaster, bamboo and thatch. Part of what makes this work healing is that the homeowners can be a part of the building. Habitat for Humanity follows this model. We're considering other aspects of this work that are transferable to our region.
As a residential architect based in Takoma Park, I’ve been helping clients create soul-nourishing homes for 26 years. Helicon Works is an architectural collaborative, and we’re beginning to explore how we can be a part of providing nurturing shelter for all. On a parallel track, I have been documenting my internal process of finding my spiritual home, and my work with clients. I’ve been working on Dwelling, A Way Home (now a text, hopefully soon to be a book).
This writing is an exploration of the deeper impulses of making home in the world and is offered to all through participation in our workshops (including one on April 8). Yet, I’ve wanted to take this work beyond our entitled, navel-gazing population (what I most know), into a broader, perhaps more impactful world. I know it’s difficult to live fruitfully in the world without a deep sense of home, regardless of our economic situation.
Most directly, we need to make homes for our homeless companions, as I firmly believe that no one suffers alone; we’re all in this together. Then, we need to provide enlivening homes for those living in impoverished housing. This is a larger issue than architectural—given your skills and knowledge, you may want to consider how you can help those in need?
This movement within springs from the emergent resistance's elegant, yet simple, motto, "Love Trumps Hate.” This is my mantra. I believe it's essential to love our estranged companions with whom we share our country. It's so easy to “make” them wrong, which only feeds the darkness. I need to know them, love them and break bread with them. Studies have shown that sharing a meal with those we don’t see eye to eye with helps bridge differences.
There is much we can do. As Arlie Russell Hochschild writes in Strangers in Their Own Land, many of our fellow citizens from the red states feel they have been forgotten. Finding ways to engage with them is one of my intentions. If there are any who share this intention to make a better world, let’s meet and start the work.