“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” -Joseph Campbell
To go further, you must let go. And if, after letting go, you want to go further still, then you must continue the practice of letting go—again and again and again. This is my story of further still.
We start with Stoop—the most beloved character in this story. It was formerly a 17-foot U-Haul moving truck.
And now it’s my home.
At this point, I assume you may have some questions.
Am I OK? Yes.
Moving into Stoop was a deliberate, conscious choice. This pandemic is threatening the livelihood of so many of us. The virus itself brings the constant fear of death and illness into our lives. It is creating a surge in homelessness and unemployment. And it continues to assault the mental health of those gripped by loneliness, boredom, and depression. In these times when so many folx are struggling to stay healthy, fed, housed, employed, and optimistic about the future, I am blessed—privileged, even—to be able to choose to make this move.
Why did I choose to make a 17-foot box truck my home for the foreseeable future? It will take several posts to answer this question. So let’s start with a question that will allow me to explain what this journey is about and why you might want to follow this story…
Why call it Stoop?
I have lived the past 15 years in Venice, CA building a career in math education and embracing a life by the beach in my small rent-controlled studio apartment. My back door was on a busy sidewalk—just off of Abbot Kinney at the corner of Andalusia and Cabrillo, if you happen to know the neighborhood.
One of my favorite things to do in Venice was to sit on my stoop, alone or with friends, and engage with the people walking by.
Now, to call it a stoop is a bit much. It was just one step barely big enough for two people. So I would set out a little folding table and a chair or two and invite passersby to answer a question posted on a whiteboard. I favored questions that would resonate with people and invite them to stop and share their stories—questions that were universal, but also quite personal to their own human experience.
For example: What is something you’re looking forward to in your life? What wisdom would you give your younger self?
Because I work in math education, I would post some questions to hear their math story: What does “math” mean to you? Who was your favorite math teacher and what made them so?
Sometimes I would write a math prompt in sidewalk chalk because it brought me joy to see strangers pause, gather, and talk some math: How many different ways can you solve 42 x 21 in your head? What’s your favorite number and why?
Three Important Truths About Humanity
Venice is a place that attracts a wide variety of travelers—not to mention residents. It was an ideal setting to hear from a rich diversity of human experiences. Over time, I began to appreciate these conversations for continually reminding me of three important Truths about our humanity.
- We are connected. We are not alone in our human experience.
- Our wellbeing is interdependent on the wellbeing of others.
- Despite all of our flaws, we are a loving species. We crave relationships, community, and belonging.
Stoop is a place where we have a chance to embody these Truths—to pause, connect, and engage with each other in authentic conversation, to listen to each other’s stories and to have the courage to share ours. As humans, we inherently seek opportunities for relationships—even if it’s a short conversation with a stranger—because we crave the nourishing sense of belonging we feel when our story is shared, heard, and appreciated. And I believe that we all want to give that nourishing sense of belonging to others.
With these Truths in mind, Stoop is designed to be a traveling stoop.
Now is a time when I need to hear more “Stories from the Stoop” that remind me of these Truths. It is through this window—masked and 6’ apart if need be—that I hope to continue to have these nourishing conversations as I follow a dream of mine and drive around the country, meet people, hear their stories, and share what I learn with you.
I don’t think I’m alone. Perhaps you’re craving more community and relationships—more stoop—in your life as well? If so, I invite you to follow the journey of Stoop by subscribing to this blog and following along on Instagram @TheTravelingStoop and Twitter @TravelingStoop.
You’ll receive short excerpts about the inspiring conversations that happen on Stoop—experiences that remind us that we are connected, interdependent, and a loving species.
Coming up in the next few posts:
- More details about the story behind why I am making this move.
- Pictures and the story about how Stoop was made.
- More about what I hope to accomplish on my journey and what I hope to convey in this space.
I hope you stay tuned.
(Note: Connectedness, interdependence, and loving species is language I am using from Peter Senge’s work on system’s thinking. Much more on that later.)