The Battle of New Orleans was fought after the War of 1812 had already ended because news of the Treaty of Ghent took weeks to reach Louisiana. When it comes to critically vital communication, prompt efficiency can be lifesaving.
We have reason to be thankful that technology has made our world smaller, yet it’s technology that widens the gulf dividing each of us. Though less time is needed for communication to reach the other side of the country, less of it is done in person. We run the risk of becoming a people who are far less interpersonal than our forbearers.
This evolution in the way we communicate has also had a noticeable effect on the way we perceive the people who used to carry these messages. Until the last century or two, spaces separating groups of people were so vast that couriers of news and correspondences were quite often given a place to rest and perhaps refreshment and a meal.
While interacting with their hosts, these messengers would tell of any news they’d heard along their journey. A traveler could go from one town to the next, spreading the same news, and enjoying the hospitality of the locals. In fact, for thousands of years, this was the standard way of things.
These travelers were so common they had their own classification and status. They were called bards or minstrels. Most cultures had their own word specifically for the traveling storytellers and news-bringers.
It wasn’t uncommon for bards to give up their homes and take to the road permanently. In effect, they were homeless, by definition.
However, their arrival in each new town wasn’t met with scolds and suspicion as the homeless are subject to today. Instead, they were greeted with excitement. Sometimes when a bard came to a town, it was a celebration, or, depending on the bard’s reputation, like a rock concert, drawing crowds from all over the countryside.
Now the job of the Bards as messengers has been outsourced, leaving no need for them to come to our town. However, every town has people without homes. Because society has lost focus on the link between the homeless and the conduit of information they used to be, in most places they’re just considered a problem.
With the rise in home prices and a decrease in the amount of low-income housing, homelessness has become a significant issue nationwide. But, with some adjustments in the way we think about homelessness some are developing strategies to help them.
Street Pens is a group for travel writers created by the Writers’ Group, one of the largest, most active and fastest growing groups for writers on social media. The purpose of Street Pens is to help people on the streets make the link between literacy and writing as a solution for the situation.
Simply giving up due to hopelessness is one of the reasons it’s so difficult for those on the streets to gather themselves enough to return to a life the rest of society identifies as “normal.” However, by revising what is normal, the homeless can identify themselves as travel writers on the road. They’ve just stalled in their progress of getting from where they are to where they’re going.
Street Pens hopes to bring this perspective to those on the streets as well as writing material, pens, waterproof paper, times with volunteer editors, and a website on which their written work can be submitted for publication.
If the bards no longer walk the earth bringing stories to the people, then perhaps the people can come to the bards and get the stories from them, wherever they are.
Visit the GoFundeMe crowdfunding campaign for Street Pens for more information.
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