I took the 21A bus to Minneapolis last night. Two men seated on opposite sides of the aisle struck up a conversation. Obviously acquainted with each other, they updated each other on their lives. The man seated directly behind me shared that he’d been with his current employer for six months, detailing his hourly wage and plan to become a fully trained machinist to increase his earning power a year from now. He kept generalizing his life with the phrase: Just tryin’ to stay away from the perimeter.
I’d never heard this expression -- just tryin’ to stay away from the perimeter -- nor was I sure what it was intended to communicate. Within the context of the entire conversation, however, it became clear that the perimeter regarded sobriety and incarceration.
More than usual, I was struck by the challenges that people face in keeping their lives together when nearing a million different perimeters. Rent and mortgages, groceries and gas, children and education, health insurance and car insurance, jobs and taxes, marriage and aging parents... It’s exhausting to consider for a fully-functioning adult with all the preparation and opportunity in the world. It can send one person into basic survival mode, and paralyze another.
Organizations like Twin Cities Rise! exemplify the efforts of the nonprofit sector to empower those on the perimeter in the development of marketable skills and in securing gainful employment that will provide them a base for success in society. Perhaps they should re-brand themselves as “partners on the perimeter.”