As I awoke recently in a city renowned for its motorcycle rally and a mountain etched
with profound historical significance, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of familiarity—not
for the place itself, as I had never truly explored its streets or engaged with its
subtleties before, but for the themes it stirred within me about our shared human

Strolling through this American landmark on a brisk, clear April morning, I encountered
more than just the usual bustle of urban life. Instead, I was greeted by statues slightly
smaller than life-size—John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and numerous First Nation
leaders—each standing proudly, yet silent, narrating stories of power, privilege, and
leadership through their mere presence.

Reflecting on these figures, I pondered the profound access and influence these
historical leaders held. What would I do if I had that level of power today? Would I
focus inward, securing personal comforts, or would I engage deeply, leveraging my
privilege to effect real change? This thought is particularly poignant as I observe the
city’s ongoing transformations—new constructions rise beside old, proudly displaying
signs that read, “Homeless, not helpless.” This message, bold and outward-facing,
made me smile initially, yet soon after, I found myself contemplating its more profound

Does this statement, intended to inspire, also reveal a painful truth about societal
neglect and the stereotyping of those without wealth or access? As I walked further,
encountering people experiencing homelessness tucked away in alleys—out of sight yet
very much present—I was reminded of the everyday realities of those marginalized in
our society. The first to greet me wasn’t myself initiating contact, but them, with a
simple wave and a “good morning.” Such interactions underscore the stark disparity
between my access and the isolation they endure.

This journey led me to reflect on my fellow veterans. Once active contributors to the
societal machine, do they, too, find themselves marginalized once their service ends?
The answer, sadly, seems to be written on the streets of America. Despite the
imperfections of the historical figures immortalized around us, their attempts to engage
with society’s most profound issues demonstrate a willingness to connect and perhaps a
roadmap for us to follow.

In Rapid City, South Dakota, against the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore backdrop, the
question looms large: Who will next be honored with a statue? And more importantly,
what legacy will they leave behind? While some of us may not know how to wield our
access and privilege effectively, the need to address societal issues like veteran and
general homelessness is evident.

As we navigate our lives, the signs of who holds power and how they use it are all
around us. Some communities are making genuine progress towards a legacy of
goodness. We too, can contribute to this legacy. By recognizing that most people may
face steep hills but are not helpless, we can begin to make a difference.

So, what would your statue say? What narrative would it shape about your
contributions to our world? The next time you visit a new place, take a moment to
observe and reflect on these signs. They tell a story of who is in charge, how they use
their access and privilege, and perhaps most importantly, how we might do better.

As we continue our human journey, proximity and distance will always shape our
interactions and impacts. But through kindness, empathy, and a willingness to share,
we can bridge these gaps and address the pressing issues of our time. Remember,
there is strength in unity—enough to tackle even the most daunting challenges,
including homelessness among veterans and others. Let us take up this charge
together, for as one, we truly can accomplish anything.

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