Reviving Our Lost Home Front

By Jonathan Lounds

Every year millions of Americans look forward to and make plans for the long Memorial Day weekend. It has become the unofficial beginning of summer, and for Indianapolis it is the weekend of the big race, the Indy 500. With all of the festivities surrounding us, it is easy to go the entire weekend without reflecting on its meaning and history. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and emerged after the end of America’s bloodiest war, the Civil War. In 1971, Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day, and although the name changed, the meaning did not. The day was a time for communities across the country to come together and pay tribute to fallen soldiers by decorating their graves. In Indianapolis, the first Decoration Day was held on May 30th of 1868 at the Crown Hill National Cemetery where both Union soldiers and Confederate POWs are buried.

The somberness of Memorial Day to the American population has changed since the Civil War. This is likely a result of the sharp decrease in battle deaths since Memorial Day began, but it is also a result of what I describe as the “lost home front.” Throughout American history, the home front was seen as crucial to winning the wars. Almost every home in America was affected in some way by the bloodshed and sacrifice of the war. And even if in immediate family member or friend wasn’t serving, there was always the risk of them being drafted. War was a collective effort, but that has changed. Less than 1% of the American population has served in the longest running military conflicts in American history, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This small minority of service members and their families have carried the weight of the nation on their shoulders and have suffered the psychological and physical wounds of war.

It is a blessing that only a small percentage of our population has to experience the horrors
of war. War destroys lives, and I would not wish the experience of combat on anyone. But we need to revive the “home front”; because as a country, we send our young men and women to fight and die in wars without it directly affecting many of our homes. This apathy towards the politics and reality of war is harmful to our civic lives, and it increases the JonathanLoundsestrangement between the military and public. Every citizen should feel they have a stake in the military conflicts. One of the first steps in doing this is brining back the spirit of Memorial Day and remember the lives that have been lost in our wars.

Jonathan Lounds is an Afghanistan combat veteran who served as a team leader in the Army’s 101st Airborne. He completed is undergrad at IUPUI and is now working on his MPA with a concentration in policy analysis and preparing begin law school at IU McKinney in the fall.

The front line of service for Indy’s homeless

By Karen Hurt

Home to many of us is the four walls and roof over our heads; however, Indianapolis is also home to people who may be invisible, without a permanent address or structure to call home.

About a year ago, I went out with some members of the Professional Blended Street Outreach Team who serve our city’s homeless population. I shadowed the group as a part of my company’s involvement with the Know Outlets campaign and it completely changed my view of what “home” means to many in our city.

The Professional Blended Street Outreach Team is a consortium providing first-response services for Indianapolis’ homeless population. The teams are made up of 43 professionals from 16 organizations including local law enforcement, nonprofits, and health and mental health entities. These teams serve as the front line of service for providing basic food and supplies to people experiencing homelessness, with the goal of developing a relationship with each person encountered and connecting him or her with the resources to eventually transition them into permanent housing.


One of the social workers explained to me that people who live under bridges, in camps or on the street feel that the city is as much their home as I do. Many people live in the same area where they grew up, even if they don’t live in places most of us would consider permanent shelter. Many of these folks see the outdoors or their spot of the world as home.

Outreach team members create relationships with our neighbors experiencing homelessness, as it is sometimes just a real conversation and a relationship with an outreach worker who cares to get people the medical or mental health care they need. This relationship could also be the catalyst to eventually find permanent housing.

In conversations with outreach workers, I quickly learned that there is no single solution to homelessness, but keeping those members of our community invisible is not a way to reach any kind of solution. You can learn more about the work of Professional Blended Street Outreach Teams at

Karen Hurt supports nonprofit organizations at Bohlsen Group. She works with specialized leads to make sure clients’ goals are being met, not just for communications, but for the organization’s mission as a whole. A former nonprofit employee, Karen has worked for the Indianapolis Children’s Choir and the Chicago Humanities Festival, which gives her unique understanding into the unique dynamics of how nonprofit organizations operate behind the scenes.



Hoosier Home Cooking

A question we are exploring this year around the 2016 Spirit and Place Festival is “What does home mean to you?”

To us, one answer to that question is food!

New Orleans is known for beignets; Maine is famous for lobster; Texans love their barbeque.

So what is Indiana known for?

If you’re hungry in Indiana, tenderloin might come to mind. Perhaps a sugar cream pie or corn on the cob. Maybe it’s even more personal, such as the taste of your mom’s famous Christmas morning quiche; your grandpa’s mouthwatering grilled chicken on a warm summer night; a deep fried funnel cake at the state fair with your friends.


We challenge all Indiana residents to explore the theme of home and doing it with food certainly is a tasty way to do so. Check out one of the following orchards or farms to pick your own produce for some Hoosier home cooking:

Marion County

Growing Places Indy U-pick Farm

Driving Wind Blueberry Farm

Waterman’s Family Farm

Franklin County

Alpine Berry Farm

Hamilton County

Spencer Farm

Stuckey Farm Orchard and Cider Mill

Hancock County

Tuttle Orchards

Johnson County

The Apple Works

So whether it’s shopping local directly from a farmer listed above, trying a recipe from a neighbor or visiting a new local ethnic restaurant, open your mind – and your mouth – to food that ties us together and shapes our community.

Have any additional suggestions about where to buy Indiana produce? What recipes or dishes remind you of home? Please share with us!


Guest Post: At Home Everywhere on Earth

By Carol Johnston Carol.Johnston

CTS Director of Lifelong Theological Education

A few years ago I met an African American boy who had lived in a high-crime neighborhood all his life and whose home was hardly less chaotic than the streets. He was participating in a meeting at a large wealthy church where almost everyone present was white. A place far from his own “home.”  Yet, though in an alien place surrounded by white strangers, he was completely unintimidated.  He spoke without hesitation and asked some of the most insightful questions of anyone at the meeting.

This young man had been mentored at the Kheprw Institute where he had experienced a sense of “home” that was about being seen for the gifted human being he is. He had been encouraged to develop and share his gifts. He’d also been taught to view the earth as his home—a place to be embraced and cared for. As a consequence, he carried a sense of “home” inside him and could be “at home” wherever he went.

From a faith perspective, I would assert that this young man has been nurtured in a healthy spirituality—one that had helped him realize wherever he lives, it is infused with a divine presence and care that can be accessed.

When this experience of home is present, you discover divine care is present everywhere. Wherever life takes you, you can carry the sense of security of home inside you.

Most faith traditions affirm that the whole of creation is home because the world and everything in it, including each of us, is infused with the loving care of the Creator. As the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning puts it, “Earth is crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.”

This is the reason people of every faith are trying to wake us up to the danger of environmental destruction, especially climate change. We believe that the Earth is our home, and that it is imperative for the sake of all life to care for it.

We are working to help shift ways of life that work against nature’s creativity and endanger all life to ways of life that learn from the divine wisdom embedded in nature and work with it for the benefit of all. My Christian faith affirms that the whole Earth is the sacred realm of divine creativity and love, and that we are all loved, gifted, and interrelated in this web of life.

Whenever and wherever any of us can experience this love and affirmation of our gifts, and affirm the same for others, we are doing the work of creating home for each other. This fThen we can be at home everywhere, and join in the work of healing and repairing “this fragile earth, our island home,” as an Episcopal prayer puts it.

Photo blog: Before I Die recap

Spirit & Place was honored to work with the IU School of Nursing this past weekend on Indy’s — and America’s! — first Before I Die Festival. Thanks again to Bishop Gwendolyn Phillips Coates for leading faith leaders through a day of reflection and skill-building on how to create courageous conversations with their congregants and to Light of the World Christian Church for their generosity in hosting the event!

Bishop Gwendolyn Phillips Coates is the author of Waiting for my Lunch Date: A Journey Through Grief and a Path to Joy and pastor of God Answers Prayers Ministries in South Los Angeles.

Bishop Gwendolyn Phillips Coates is the author of Waiting for my Lunch Date: A Journey Through Grief and a Path to Joy and pastor of God Answers Prayers Ministries in South Los Angeles.


Photo cred: Facebook – Jennifer Vines

















The weekend was packed with even more events, including the Crown Hill Cemetery Before I Die Wall walk. See the full list of events and partners here and check out more images from the weekend here.


Death, Dying, & Awkward Conversations

By Lucia Wocial, PhD, RN, FAAN

When I first started telling people about the idea of a Before I Die Festival (April 15—17), I invariably heard an incredulous, “A what???” often followed by, “Don’t you think you should change the name? That’s awkward!”

The topic is absolutely awkward. That is kind of the point. But by explaining our goal is to use what people find comfortable – art, literature, faith, and even food – to spark conversations about death, people start to warm to the idea. In fact, virtually everyone I speak to has a story to tell about death.

BID_LogoGerogioProFinalFew people are comfortable talking about death, even though all of our lives will be touched by it sooner or later. If the first conversation you have about what you want for end-of-life care is when you get bad news from your doctor, it is too late.

There are so many heartwarming stories about how people have beat cancer or survived some terrible accident. It is easy to trick ourselves into believing we don’t have to plan for death. Subconsciously we know we will die but our conscious mind does not want to go there. We believe we will be in control; we will be able to tell people what we want up until the very end.

Because I work in healthcare I know that the majority of people who are dying are too sick to tell us what they want.

If they haven’t had conversations with the important people in their lives, family is left to feel a terrific burden. The greatest gift we can give our families is to tell them exactly what matters most to us should we develop a terrible illness or learn we are dying. In my experience, there is a tremendous sense of peace when patients have shared with their friends and family what they want.

It is sad when people die. It doesn’t have to be traumatic.

Come to the festival and find out just how easy it can be to talk about death.

Lucia Wocial, PhD, RN, FAAN is a nurse ethicist with the Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics as well as an adjunct assistant professor with the IU School of Nursing. Her work with the RESPECT Center is focused on research in palliative and end-of-life communication and training.