cockroach. PC: KSB

Open letter to cockroaches

Of all the bugs with which I’ve shared a home, cockroaches are certainly not the worst. We have the German kind, so they’re really more like beetles, and they don’t seem to do anything except be everywhere, so it’s not that bad. I honestly find it amusing at points, though also a bit annoying. Because I am frustrated with certain things, I have crafted a letter to the king of the cockroach clan that resides in my apartment complex. Please enjoy and share this if you have similar issues with the cockroach community.

Dear Mr. Cockroach,

How art thou, O ruler of my apartment? I don’t know why I think of you as a mister, but I do. Evidently there are enough women in your bunch to multiply your offspring in this humble domain you have chosen to be your kingdom. That’s fine; babies are good, but I do have a couple things I’d like to discuss with you for the mutual benefit of Apartment 301 and the building as a whole.

  1. You reign in this apartment, in this whole building in fact, but you don’t pay rent. Do you know the cost of living these days? Since you use the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room more than I do and repose in the living room and bed room as well, I think it’s only fair that you do your part. With the amount of roaches in your clan, it really shouldn’t be that expensive. So please, I know you’re the king, but you have to think of the good of your people (meaning us four actual humans) in your apartment kingdom. Thanks.
  2. I don’t mind sharing with you. I really don’t. I like to think of myself as a friendly and hospitable person. But when you walk all over me (literally when I’m on the couch and you’re walking across my body), that’s too much. Let me maintain some dignity, and don’t abuse this relationship. I need some respect.
  3. This respect implies privacy as well. I’ve learned to close my eyes when you decide to sleep on the wall a yard from my face. I know you won’t hurt me. But when you are on the toilet seat and I need to use the loo, that’s unacceptable. I would appreciate space in my bedroom, though I’ve learned to share, but I absolutely need the privacy of a free toilet seat when I need to relieve myself. Just go on the wall. It’s only a few feet away. Don’t claim my chance to have a throne just because you’re king.
  4. And please stop entering the fridge to eat our food. It only ends up killing you anyway.

Thank you for hearing my complaints, O Mr. Cockroach, and considering my words. You know where to find me to discuss these matters further. Thank you again.

Sincerely,

Katelyn Skye Bennett (Skye)

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Ten things I love about Denver

While I’m not a native Coloradan, I lived in Denver during a life-changing summer two years ago. Now I am back for a bit, and I am so happy. Here are ten things I love about this city, culminating with number 10.

  1. Public transportation.

    Riding the bus is inexpensive and provides the opportunity to people watch, rest from a fulfilling day or observe the city itself through discolored windows. I feel independent when I take the RTD, and I learn about social dynamics by observing where people sit and how they speak to each other. If you’re from a city, you can probably relate.

  2. Sunshine.

    If I could define Denver in a word, I would say yellow. Yellow defines the feel of the summer sun on my skin, the invisible color of the air, the feeling I have while living here – due in part to the serotonin-boosting sunshine. As John Denver croons, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” Even his name reinforces how the sun connects to this Coloradan city!

  3. Mountains.

    The Rockies awe me with their majesty, the majesty that reflects their Creator. Although I behold them daily, they have not lost their splendor. They always provide me with some metaphor, and they draw me closer to God. In this city, they also help me find my way since I can always know which way is west. As a directionally challenged person, I appreciate that.

    Denver blog view from LFS office

    The view from my office, PC: KSB

  4. My internship.

    I could write blogs upon blogs about my internship. I work with refugees who are resettling in the United States, and I love showing up to work every morning. My coworkers are caring, relational, hard-working and fun, and I relish being surrounded by their many languages. I hear a lot of Arabic in particular, and one of the case managers is teaching me Kiswahili since I am on my way to the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is my second time interning here, and each time I’ve been thrown into learning and doing. I could go on forever about how amazing my internship is, but I’ll move on from describing my amazing weekdays to the event that makes my weekends so fabulous.

  5. Jazz in the Park.

    For ten consecutive Sundays each summer, thousands of people gather in City Park to hear live jazz and consume cuisine from the food trucks. Elderly couples and children dance together by the gazebo, and families hold picnics by the algae-covered lake. Whether chatting with friends or vibing to the music alone, I love the atmosphere.

    Denver blog leaving Jazz in the Park

    Leaving Jazz in the Park, PC: KSB

  6. Old friends.

    Since I lived here two years ago, I have been able to reconnect with people whom I met during a formative time in my life. I have enjoyed catching up with old friends, having fun in community and being near people who can build me up in my faith. These friends vary in age from children to people more than twice my age, and some even call me family.

  7. Walking.

    I appreciate the calf muscles I have been able to sustain by walking; I like feeling strong. While walking is obviously a good way to travel from place to place, exercise or release stress, it is also conducive to exploring. Immersing oneself in Denver’s shops and neighborhoods is easier by foot than by car since it allows for more spontaneity and closeness to the details that characterize Denver. What you discover will depend on where you walk and how open you keep your eyes and heart.

    Denver blog Izzy and me at Juneteenth 2016

    Izzy and I at the Juneteenth Festival, PC: KSB

  8. Festivals every weekend.

    There’s always something to do in the city. With many of these events free and public transportation so easily accessible, Denverites have no reason to be bored. Although I am a bit of a homebody, I also find it healthy to get out of the apartment and explore. I particularly enjoy the cultural festivals such as the one in Five Points celebrating Juneteenth Independence Day. Participating with friends makes the deal even better.

  9. 16th Street Mall.

    Street musicians fill the air with sweet melodies, and public pianos beckon from the center of every block; it is basically the dream. The street is always crowded, which makes it a great place to observe or potentially make connections. (I once met a man who works for the Denver Voice, the homeless newspaper based in my building, while heading toward the movie theater there.) For consumers, 16th Street Mall is the place to satisfy physical hunger, find any item one may desire or simply browse the windows. The mall bus is free and can take you closer to your destination if you’re not in the mood to walk.

    Denver blog 16th St Mall

    A group of activists on 16th Street Mall, PC: KSB

  10. Diversity of people.

    This plays into almost all my previous points in some way. Living with a family of another race and nationality, learning about my friends’ religions in a setting where we all respect each other and can make civil and genuine conversation, appreciating global cultures daily through my friends’ food and the city’s festivals, the buzz during Pridefest when rainbow flags decorated all of Colfax and hundreds of thousands of people from around the country came to celebrate – I do not experience most of these things in my wealthy, white suburban college town, but in Denver I am surrounded by diversity of all forms.

    I am learning so much in this city, and I am thriving off the diversity in which I live. Even if you do not live in a city, I encourage you to seek this out. A trip to Denver won’t hurt either.

What are some things you love about Denver? Comment below!

PC: KSB

The Bus Fight

Denver,
Summer 2014.

White man on a bus.
Black youth—my age—as well.

Fight.
Words, words of hate.
“N*****,” they both called each other.

I’d never seen anything like it;
I’d never seen such hate.

The white man wouldn’t listen,
Wouldn’t heed a word.
I wanted to tell the black man that he wouldn’t make any progress,
But I held back
>out of fear of the fight
>and because I didn’t want the man to have to be submitted to a white voice
>again.

Help doesn’t always mean stepping in for others.

They wanted to take it on to the street.
“Colfax and—” what crossroad?
Broadway was my stop.

They wanted to fight out of rage
(the white man had started it over literally nothing),
But they were both scared.
I think one got off a stop before me, one after.

I hurried away for fear that I’d be caught in a brawl.

Denver,
Summer 2014.

I witnessed the results
Of a racist history, alive today.

I hadn’t known the divide was so real, still real,
And while I never saw another bus fight, I saw
>discriminatory housing laws causing segregation
>gentrification of the remaining black neighborhoods
>homelessness in men now out of the (broken) criminal justice system
>fear of poor, minority males
>poverty mere yards from wealth.

White man on a bus.
Black youth—my age—as well.
Hate and fear.

An Evening in My Neighborhood (Denver)

We swung and smiled in the evening light, laughter littering the peaceful playground like the golden light peering over the elementary school and around the buildings downtown.

~~~

I live across from an elementary school, and since it is summer, my friends and I have free reign of the playground. We have enjoyed a couple evenings on the slide, monkey bars, and swings recently, sharing the child-like fun as well as our life stories.

However, I spent today alone. I slept in, my body needing the twelve hours of undisturbed rest. After waking, I consumed lunch, penned several entries and lists in my journal, and cleaned for hours upon end while listening to some of my favorite bands, FM Static and Children 18:3. Exhausted, I made an easy dinner and planned to email several friends. But because I had been inside all day, the sunshine and cooling temperatures attracted me more than the indoors and my laptop.

I decided to have some time with Jesus. Although I had been alone all day, I had necessarily cooped myself inside while cleaning and had listened to punk and alternative rock rather than praying, processing, or observing in solitude. I now desired the quiet outdoors of a Denver evening. Barefoot as usual, I set out on a walk.

After strolling down one block, I longed for more solitude, so ambled down another block. Turning right, I walked two blocks over. Through the trees and cars lining the sidewalk, I attempted to observe several groups hanging out on porches. Two were entirely composed of blacks, and another was Mexican. After noting the homogenous groups, I wondered what minority groups thought when all whites hung out together. A squirrel that was climbing someone’s car caused me to grin in the midst of my more serious thoughts. Then I returned towards home.

A block and a half up, the grassy elementary school park and its swings drew me. I perched on a swing, rocking ever so slightly, and observed my surroundings.

I noticed that the building in which my friends and I live is one large unit; up close, I usually only notice the red door and the blue doorframe of the community room and the numbers, windows, and doors of the apartments. From afar, I wondered what others thought of the Issachar Center, the unit we live in. Its architecture is similar to that of one or two other houses nearby, but does my summer home look richer than the rest of the neighborhood? I hoped not.

Children’s laughter and chatter rang from one of the smaller playgrounds behind the school, mingling with the Spanish they exchanged with their mothers. A young teenager attempted to skateboard on the pavement to my right — to the west, towards the mountains that the elementary school blocked.

The sky faded into a medium cornflower blue above my head with a lighter blue color rimming the houses and city buildings on the skyline, and thriving grass filled my immediate area.

A father and two children entered to my left, on the east side. The girl and her father played catch while the boy perched on his bike. When I asked the child later, he replied that he was having fun. Other groups of girls came and went from the play area.

Four black boys joined me on the swings. Glad that they were not shying away from me, I welcomed them, and they greeted me back. They began doing small acrobatic feats and playfully threatening to knock into each other from the swings. The oldest boy, who appeared to be about twelve or thirteen years old, introduced himself and asked my name and age.

I considered leaving to email my friends from school, but the desire to stay in the peaceful outdoors won. Being outside and observing was worthwhile, I decided. I was content.

I swung higher and listened to the boys laugh and chat, occasionally adding a comment. I smiled and laughed with them. The two oldest swung to my right, and two younger boys, aged nine and five, swung to my left. I helped to spin and push the youngest boy.

The younger boys and I chatted about our names and why we were named them. The five year old responded that he was named Ezekiel because his daddy named him that. I asked him if he knew that there is an Ezekiel in the Bible, and he said yes. The nine year old added that his name is in the Bible, too.

I explained that my name, Skye, also comes from the Bible. “It comes from Psalms. Do you know about the Psalms?” I queried. Ezekiel nodded. I continued, “My name comes from Psalm 19:1, which says ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.'”

I hung around for a few more minutes, standing on the swings like Ezekiel, before leaving. The oldest two boys had left the swing set a couple minutes after I had begun to help push Ezekiel, and I never caught the fourth boy’s name.

I left through gate by the community garden, and as I jogged back home, I heard one of the boys call across the lawn, “Bye, Skye!” I waved towards the voice and smiled to myself.

The Turf Tour: Learning about Homeless Youth in Denver

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has a material possession and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18, NIV).

~~~

Strung lights dazzle over the street. A hidden speaker emits haunting music, adding to the aura that leaves pedestrians in a daze. Wealth oozes out of the restaurants, fancy clothing stores, and expensive pet shops. The river flows a road away and a level down. Welcome to Larimer Street.

Across the intersection and down a level from the roads, athletes bike and run on beige sidewalks lining the river. Tall grass forms a median in the river, and green trees further beautify the landscape. We walk along the sidewalk, in the hot sun for a few minutes, in the shade of a bridge next. Here we pause.

Denverites travel past us, oblivious to their heavy surroundings. Like me, they see only the open sky, the lush beauty of the landscape, the cream sidewalk beneath their feet. We do not look up until instructed.

“Look at the bridges. What do you see?” one guide queries.

“Bars,” I answer, probing the architecture with my eyes.

“Why do you think those bars are there?” she replies.

“To keep people out,” someone responds, seeing the alcoves at the top of the bridge blocked by rusted iron rods. We stand there in silent realization of our surroundings.

The beautiful city of Denver houses both the haves and the have-nots. The haves live in apartments renting at $750, $900, or $2,000 per month. They may live in lofts and houses selling for $250,000 and $500,000 respectively. The have-nots live in bridges and alcoves hidden from the haves. They see but remain unseen. And now the city is removing what little “housing” the have-nots used by barring bridges and banning camping. It is also eliminating hang outs by barring tunnels.

I have not talked to the city officials about this, but I am curious about how they would explain all these bars. We discuss this as we continue on our turf tour. Some people suggest that the city would say the bars are a health precaution. They do not want people entering the tunnel because then they will use drugs or get sick from the unsanitary water.

I am not satisfied.

My eyes have been opened to a world beneath my feet. We walk over homeless youth daily, both figuratively and literally, oblivious to our fellow humans.

We know when we stride past homeless men and women on the streets. Unwilling to give from our abundance and scared that they will hurt us, we glance away without a hello. We do not pause to consider how they have become homeless. We do not stop to ask for their story. Instead we fear, judge, and walk past them like the priest and Levite did to the man who had been mugged in the story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10 in the Bible). We never think that the white male in a suit could quite feasibly be a criminal and that the shaggy, worn individual with plastic bags could become a trusted friend with a wealth of lessons to teach us.

The Holy Spirit causes me to twinge when I walk past these homeless people because I know I am being selfish, prideful, and fearful by ignoring them. That alone could become a blog topic. However, most people — myself included — have no idea that they live across from or above the hidden homes of homeless teens. This ignorance is a separate, massive problem.

Most of us complain when our stomachs grumble in the least and talk about going out for Mexican food or pizza as if it is nothing; the unseen homeless people may go without any food for a day. And we do not even realize they are beneath the bridges on which we walk, just around the corners by the highways on which we travel to work, and on the intersections we cross daily as we bus or walk to the store or home.

We sleep on our comfortable mattresses in our comfortable rooms, safe from the outdoor elements, uninterrupted in our sleep. They squat in grassy corners outside, tucked in bridges where no one would think to look, and on wooden slats far into wet, dark tunnels. Even the messiest middle class families sleep inside on some form of comfortable material, but the homeless youth often sleep on hard, dirty, rocky earth.

Our mattresses are dry and our clothes and sheets are washed frequently. Their pillows are soggy and their beds are hard. Most Denverites and citizens of the United States can purchase new things when their old ones form a hole, fade a color shade, or go out of style. However, the homeless youth’s pillows are soggy and their clothing is in disrepair.

Our group walks by the grass and the river in silent contemplation of what we have seen. Reaching another bridge, I admire the white, rocky ground next to the sidewalk. It looks pretty to me. A moment later, one guide speaks and points out the very ground I had noticed. What he says shocks me and almost makes me ashamed of myself.

“Do you see how lush the grass is out there? But here there are rocks so that no one can sleep here under the bridge,” he says, adding, “The rocks are cemented in so you can’t even move them around to make a space to sleep.” The guide expounds upon how uncomfortable it would be to sleep under a bridge like that and how the homeless are being continually kicked out of places they formerly could have slept.

My view of an attractive city came from a middle class perspective rather than a practical one. What I had perceived as beauty was actually a prong in the side of our guides’ homeless friends.

The tour ends. We have seen bars and bridges, a youth who just shot up, tunnels and utter physical darkness like we had never experienced before. We have heard of injustice and about the crafty expulsion of homeless teens in Denver; I am sure it is the same in cities around the United States. We have also heard stories of hope and have had our hearts burdened.

The tour guides leave, and we split up to go home, explore, or chill in the city. How should we go about life now?

Since our hearts our heavy, one person suggests seeing a movie that night. Some of us put the turf tour out of our mind as we find our way home, figuring out the bus system and resting on our beds from a long day. At dinner several of us reflect on the sights we have seen, the actions of our cities, and on our homeless and poor friends. The compassion we felt earlier transitions into advocacy as we discuss what we can do about this new knowledge and understanding.

I do not want to grow a one sided view — that of the underprivileged and misrepresented. I realize that learning about their situation is crucial and that they receive much injustice. However, as any good journalist should do with his or her writing and as Proverb 18:13, 15 and especially verse 17 imply, I want to hear all sides of the story first: theirs, those of the middle and upper class, and the city’s. Then I will be able to move forward more wisely, as aware of all sides of the story as possible.

This is where I stand now. I have been in Denver in my summer city immersion experience for one week and have already had the beginnings of an eye opening behind the scenes tour. I am sure I will continue to learn about people’s back stories, thoughts, and reasoning throughout my eight weeks here. I also hope to love people practically from a well informed standpoint, keeping the Gospel as my motivation and Jesus as my teacher.

What are you doing to do to help the needy now, and how will you receive what they have to say?

~~~

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son (Jesus Christ) as an atoning sacrifice for our since. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

“We know that we live in him and he in us because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us to that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:10-19, NIV).