August 26, 2013
Dear Columbia City Council Members,
I am writing to tell you why I am changing my vacation plans this week.
I brought my son Mason, not quite five, to the EdVenture Museum in Columbia last year on an afternoon road trip to the coast. He’s young (and was even younger then), and I thought it would be a good idea to break up the trip, so I searched online for fun things to do with kids along our route. Of everything I saw, EdVenture looked like the most fun.
And it was. Mason loved the mock grocery store, playing with synthetic bones and learning about his body, and especially the firetruck exhibit. He bravely crawled through the dark tunnel as a firefighter sometimes is required to and came right out the other end smiling.
However, when it came to Eddie, the three-story educational boy’s body with exhibits inside that children can climb into to learn about their bodies, he was a bit intimidated. He wasn’t quite ready to face this huge giant. The memory stuck with him, though, and he has talked about Eddie many times since then.
About six months ago he told me that he was ready now, and that if I would take him back, he would like to climb around inside of Eddie. I believe him. So when I got the word that his preschool would be closed this week, I thought I would take a couple of days off and bring him down to Columbia to see Eddie and some family who live there.
I’m not going to do that, though.
I learned yesterday about your new policy regarding your neighbors who don’t have houses to go home to. That policy violates the basic teachings of my faith (Christianity, in which Jesus spent most of his time talking about how we should go about caring for the poor) and I think you will also find that it is ineffective, based on other efforts along the same lines around the country. Most of all, though, it is simply wrong. It is wrong to arrest or evict people who are already in trouble, rather than trying to figure out what got them there in the first place (lack of affordable housing in Columbia comes to mind as a possibility) and how best to help. Instead, you are making it illegal for others to help. Churches and other outreach organizations who try to feed homeless people downtown can now be arrested for that action.
My friend Hugh Hollowell is a minister who works with homeless people in Raleigh, NC. It seems that they have a similar idea, but I encourage you to watch how it plays out over the next week or two. It doesn’t reflect well on the City Council, or the City.
My great grandfather, Asbury Gamewell LaMotte, walked back from North Carolina to his home in Columbia when the Civil War ended. I was hoping to loosely follow his path this weekend and tell Mason some stories about the family and this city, which has mattered to my family for generations. I would have taken him by the house where my sister recently lived, too.
I refuse to spend any money in your town, however. If your choices are based simply on money, I will take this opportunity to deny you mine. I hope others will make a similar choice, for now. Then my hope and prayer is that you will see the error of this decision and change it. When you do, I eagerly look forward to bringing Mason to see Eddie.
Best wishes to you and all of Columbia’s inhabitants,
Black Mountain, NC