You are without HOME or YOU are HOME.



“I know what it is like to live in a house, but you have no idea about living on the streets. That’s why the topic is so strange to you. Don’t tell me that you did camp or stayed in the mountains. Staying on the streets of a city is way harder than staying in nature. Why am I on the streets? Not because I have no home, but because I accept the streets as my home. This is my own choice: my home is my street. You may not believe it, but I am happy this way.”

He answered everyone’s questions as if reading their minds. Instead of telling his story, he was following a path of unanswered questions.

“You may think of us as alcoholics, uneducated and useless. This is quite wrong. There are some homeless who used to rank very highly in society, then they lost everything. Some do not even call themselves homeless. As for me, I can’t deny I have drunk a lot. I have also been involved in bodily injury and robbery cases. I was in prison for a while, for a short time did drugs. However I managed to free myself from the things that made me dependent.

“Hey, you! The one with the glasses sitting in the middle—yes, the one asking ‘Me?’ Do you know that it is not the same for you to open a pizza box as it is for me? You only open a box, while I open a treasure chest.

“Some of you call us ‘shadow people’. You are real and we are just your shadows. Really? You are very wrong. I’m homeless and I’m aware of that. I’m here with all my awareness. You have homes, but you remain homeless and you die without even realizing it. What about it? If you don’t know which street your doors open onto, you are the real shadow people. Homelessness without awareness is much more dangerous, believe it or not.

“We are known, accepted. We are who we are. We don’t have a roof above our heads, but what about your upside down roofs, relationships and worlds? Who can call them home? We are the residents of the streets, but you do not even belong to the streets because you have closed your doors on both sides. You are stuck between the inside and outside; you live in emptiness.

“I am homeless, right? And I am well aware of that, but you? Where is your home? I am the visible homeless, you are the invisible ones. That is the difference between us. You are the real homeless, not me. Now please, you, namely the real homeless people, come to the stage as I’m going home.”

He left the microphone and took a scroll from his belt. It was a yellow rag and the words were black. While he held it up to the audience, they tried to read what was written on it.

You are without HOME or YOU are HOME.

Flowers inspire loving connection

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“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. 

I’ll meet you there.”  Rumi


Zeynep Guvenc and Barbara Hochstetler connected this day over a choice that defined their commitment to their faith and values.

Zeynep is Muslim from Istanbul Turkey and lives in Miami. She has two young children and a husband who works at FIU. She is a mother and a freelance writer. She is the author of  “Homeless”, a multicultural adult fiction book set in San Francisco, which is just released.

Barbara grew up in Iowa as a Christian in a Mennonite community and considers herself spiritual. She lived in Miami Beach for 3 years. Barbara is a mother of three. As a Director of Interior Design for notable public buildings internationally her role involves expressing culture in design. She is also an artist inspired by nature and humanity. Barbara current series of artwork, “the garden of even” depicts the balance and harmony of the center of flower.

Rev. Dr. Laurinda Hafner of Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ, invited muslim women to the women’s monthly meeting (sister’s on sojourn). The meeting was to promote understanding of our religious differences. The diverse group included midwesterners to latinos, spiritual to religious, career women to housewives.

Zeynep; I invited Barbara to my house, we talked about Rumi and his beautiful quotes. Even though we were originally from different countries, cultures, and religions, I felt there was an invisible bridge between our hearts. What she spoke started and ended with love, joy, and happiness. If there is love, the common language, there is nothing to worry about. One of the names of God is al-Wadud, i.e., He who loves. I think that the biggest problem in the world is that we are forgetting to love each other and this way anger grows and feeds violence all over the world. Spreading love increases happiness and peace.

Another time we met at a Miami restaurant with women from the Coral Gables church and Turkish women friends. Barbara took my picture in the restaurant’s garden and sent it to me with a comment saying that my red headscarf looks like a rose in the garden. She said, “I actually believe we all live in the same garden and each human being symbolizes a different flower in the garden. Love unites all of us in a field of flowers from various smells, colors, and shapes through acceptance. If we look at everything with the vision of love, this makes us rich, powerful, and happy. It says in the Holy Qur’an: “And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge” (30:22). Diversity is in the roots of our creation, and we should all acknowledge that, and show empathy to each other.

The flower in the garden is a unique metaphor that I have not heard yet about hijab. I felt it was a great perspective. We as Muslim woman cannot see ourselves in front of the mirror. We need to step back to see what we look like. This connection with Barbara gave me a good opportunity to see myself from a different perspective. In this case I had a chance to better understand myself and others.


There are many paths that may take someone to God. We can only achieve peace when we realize that each path should be respected, and show love and empathy to each other. That’s what my Turkish Muslim friends and I experienced with Barbara.


Barbara; I found a kindred spirit in Zeynep, who was dressed in a hijab and covered body. Her modest dress was the main topic of conversation the day I met her. The Christian women wondered why a woman would want to dress like this and what it meant to the Muslim faith. They assumed it demeaned Muslim women and that they had no choice in the matter.  Zeynep and her Muslim friends all dispelled this idea, and enlightened us about their beliefs and choices. When I spoke to her later I told her that I connected to her ability to stand firm in what she believes.

I grew up on a farm in a rural Mennonite Amish German community in southeastern Iowa. There were many rules about dress and behavior based on the Mennonite faith. When my grandmother grew up she wore a covering and long dresses with pins instead of buttons, which were too worldly. As a church member I did not follow the Mennonite rules which included no short dresses, no sleeveless, no short hair, and a mandatory covering for women in church. Because of this I was told that I was bad and that church members were judging me. Forty years later all the above rules in this Mennonite church are non-existent, they can dress how they wish. The women are not told they are sinners as I was.

Even though I chose to not wear a head covering and Zeynep did, I feel like we are are both unique flowers from the same garden. Cultures and religions are as diverse as the varieties of flowers in the world. Two of the same type flower will never be just alike. Flowers stand strong in their unique beauty while nurturing new life.


Zeynep and I continue to be inspired and grow through our differences, and our similarities.


                                                                                                          Zeynep Guvenc

                                                                                                          Barbara Hochstetler


Treasure Island: The Season of the Heart




The universe would be the color of a person’s heart. When one sees the universe with their heart, it would be black, white or rainbow colored.

Cihan could see his actions reflected in the outer world. Sometimes they were good, and sometimes they were bad; sometimes they caused joy, other times sorrow. However he couldn’t see his actions in his soul’s mirror. When he complained about the storms inside him, it was he who was unaware of them. Was there really a storm?

The steel rope between his feelings and thoughts became a thin cotton one. His head and heart couldn’t connect and swim in the swallow water. A strong wind made his heart a mess. He had to wear lots of things to warm it, but they were not enough. He had a hole inside and the cold was coming through it. He wouldn’t be able to get warm as long as his heart was cold.

Cihan was worried. He cared and was interested in his heart, and as a result it became heavy. How could he perish under his own organ? How could the source of his life crush his head? He would have no escape other than to have a heart attack maybe. Would his heart riot against his body in this way?

Cihan was terrified of breaking hearts, but this caused him to break his own heart a hundred times. His body made excuses to do things its own way. His soul disobeyed its owner and lied about its own history.

There were some hearts that couldn’t reach themselves and hear their own voices. When the emptiness echoed, they thought they had their answers. When they thought they were in the depths of pleasure, they were pushed back to their gardens.

Alcatraz: The White Shirt with Five Holes

Lara realized that the white shirt she had wanted for two weeks
was an absurd enthusiasm. This waiting made her forget to be
happy. She had waited to buy it and now she had to wait to get rid
of it. She didn’t know where it was. Actually, what she didn’t know
was how to look for it.
There were lots of white shirts falling down from the sky, looking
like parachutes. They appeared every morning and fell down
to the ground with an invisible robe. The white shirts represented
purity, cleanliness and freshness. The day was new. It was exciting
that every living creature got to wear them. The new day was hot
bread just out of the oven. A new and spotless twenty-four hours
were in front of anyone with a white shirt.
The owners of these white shirts realized the shirts had five
holes by the end of the day. Their souls were full of holes and they
added five more each day. They knew how to patch things up, but
they couldn’t handle the holes in their shirts.
Every day this attack was repeated and the holes passed through
to the souls. The emptiness caused by them

teen show


Teen Show

“Nicole, we have heard your story and watched your video. Now it’s your turn to talk. Are you ready to talk with your mother?”

“Yes,” answered Nicole without thinking.

There was loud applause in the studio. People were screaming her name when the tension music started. There was also the sound of a telephone, dialing her mother.

Diiiiitt diiiiit diiiiitt!

Nicole decided there were two less things for her to do now: putting on makeup and calling her mother.

“Hi, Rose, we are calling you from Teen Show. You’re on the air. How are you?”

“I’m well, but I don’t understand why you’ve called me. Is it a wrong number?”

“No, madam. Your daughter Nicole is with us and she wants to tell you something. Will you please listen to her?”

“Hmm…Okay, I’m listening.”

All the eyes, cameras and lights were on Nicole.

“Mom, I’m pregnant!”

She confessed in one breath as if she had stayed underwater too long and needed to breathe as soon as she surfaced.

There were thunders of applause in the studio, but Nicole couldn’t understand what they were celebrating—her being pregnant at a young age or having the courage to confess it on the TV.

Rose was speechless. There was only the sound of her breathing. Nicole began crying.

“Hey, Rose, are you there?” the presenter asked.

“Yes, I am.”

“Do you want to talk with your daughter?”

“Yes. Nicole, who is the father?”



“And I have told you not to have sex without protection. You know the cookie jar in the kitchen?”

“Wait a minute, what is this cookie jar?”

“Well, my mom puts condoms in the cookie jar in the kitchen.”

“An interesting method.”

“I’m sorry, Mom!” Nicole was playing with the napkin in her hand.

“Are you sorry? That doesn’t alter the fact you are having a baby.”

Nicole was now crying on the shoulder of the presenter. Some people in the audience were also crying, their mascara running. Nicole realized why the short woman hadn’t put mascara on her eyes: she must have known everybody here would cry and the audience wouldn’t like looking at black eyes.

“Won’t you help her, Rose? She is very sad and she’s your daughter.”

“No, never. Good luck, Nicole! Find yourself a place to stay!”

Rose hung up. Nicole knew what was coming; she felt a déjà vu. The assistant came in the commercial break and helped her to leave the studio. She was so gentle as if she was treating an old lady, and Nicole was feeling old at that moment.

An African-American girl was on next. Nicole wanted to warn her not to go on, but decided not to. Maybe her mom would forgive her.

“Mom, didn’t you get pregnant at a young age? I don’t even know my father. You went through the same things as me and you told me your story. Our destiny is the same, Mom, so why do you condemn me? Or is this your own punishment?”

Nicole was only able to say these words in her mind. She was a homeless mother now, a homeless home for her baby.


Zeynep Guvenc, HOMELESS


Alcatraz: Heart—The Boss

Alcatraz: Heart—The Boss  
Lara’s heart was hurt by love as well as Lara herself. She listened her heart and heard the echoes of the sentence: “I am the boss!”  

Hundreds of dwarfs were carrying blood in their tiny buckets. In this big factory, there was recirculation all the time; the inside was cleaned with red water constantly. Machines in various sizes and gear wells were all around. At certain times the tubes were filled with food and dwarfs’ duty was to divide and arrange it. There was a separate section for the waste. The stomach’s rumble was heard much more intensely inside and the dwarfs sometimes dropped their buckets. 

All these processes were different in different beings. There were no interventions during the processes: they were all the product of a structured body. Even when a human slept, there was a light on in the boss’s room. The heart boss kept working all night, studying and reading. Research was going on all the time, printing of web pages and trying to understand the ego. The boss was looking for ways to reach the human. His duty was to provide the soul with essentials. From the moment he had been put in charge of the factory, all he had done was work, study and research. The heart’s only struggle was to put the factory’s learning to good use. Despite working for the body, in fact the heart was working for the soul, collaborating with the mind to produce new methods. 

The heart only smiled when the new methods were comprehended and internalized, otherwise the heart was worried. When there was a revolution on the left side of the breast, the body went on strike. When love came to someone, the heart either struck at the cause, making life miserable, or let the owner of the cause fall in love.  

Lara opened the letter from her heart. 

 You forgot about me. It has been days since you looked at your heart. I won’t expostulate, but I feel a little hurt. When you say to someone, “You broke my heart” it’s actually you who is breaking me. It’s you who hurts me most in this confined body. I beat in your name, but you take other steps. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow or a month or a year after you’ll hear me. You are afraid of death and say, “Don’t leave me, keep beating” which means you are aware of death. Yet you still ignore it. You plan your future even if you are not sure the future will come. Who do you hold onto when you are without a lifesaver in a sea of materials? Neither the sea nor the actions are yours.  

It’s only me taking steps. You need to take one too.

I’ll catch you. I promise to do that.

Don’t leave me alone in this borrowed body.

Your breathing gets less and less, so do you.

Please take a step to become more.