An unorthodox man’s unorthodox job search

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As you look over this open letter to the universe, remember you’re part of the ever-evolving and sometimes-improving Tupperware bowl of existence we call the universe. If you know of a job that fits this request, you’ll be helping yourself by helping the universe help me. Also, I’ll write you a sonnet or bake you cookies if this works.

Really and for true.

Dear Universe:

It’s about time for me to determine the next step in my improbable life. Not time to take the step, mind you. Not time even to pick up my things and sort them out before loading my backpack. Still, it’s time for me to lick my finger, put it in the air to see where the wind’s blowing. Universe, you’ve been way better to me than I’ve been to you (although you did notice, yes, that since I got sober I’ve stopped throwing things out my car window? Who’d have thought that active alcoholism and litter-buggery would be co-incident afflictions?) so what follows is not a list of demands, for goodness’ sake. It’s like a child’s letter to Santa Claus, if the letter were written by a well-reared little boy who’ll be thankful with whatever appears under the tree Christmas morning — although the gratitude will be magnified if one of those items is a combination magic/chemistry set with directions on making potions.

Sitting inside the Tiny White Box in the Great North Woods in the middle of March, a heavy but beautiful snow falling outside, with Bruce Cockburn’s Inner City Front blasting through the speakers, here are some of the things I may want for this next installment. Still, universe, I know you’ve chosen wisely so far, so I’ll leave it in your imaginary hands.

(Yes, in the previous sentence the phrase “chosen wisely” can be translated as “blindly followed a mechanistic path of cause and effect with a soupcon of randomness thrown in.” If I want to anthropomorphize existence as a wise helper who probably knows best, and use it as a Higher Power, I damned well will, especially since I’ve managed to stay away from a drink or a drug for more than 10 years now!) 

(I apologize for the hair-on-the-back-of-my-neck-standing-up tone within those last parentheses. I usually manage to synthesize that bile into something more productive.)

(Last aside, before returning to my letter to the universe: Synthesized Bile is a great band. I saw them open for Manfred Mann and Gentle Giant in Amsterdam.)

SO, back to my dream list of things I’m looking for in a next phase.

  • I’d like a job, not just for the money, but because this time away has shown me how much I like interacting with other people, and, even, how good I am at it.
  • I’m looking for a job running a small- to medium-size nonprofit. It should have growth possibilities, perhaps a recently-faced crisis/scandal, and limited current support with future possibilities.
  • I’d like it to have a board of directors that’s open to creativity, honesty and a new way of looking at things.
  • Money is not all that important, although the possibility of future increases is a plus.
  • Benefits I’d like are relocation assistance, a company car and vacation time, although like everything else, these are negotiable
  • I’d like to be the face of the organization, the leader and a staff member interactions with the population served is absolutely necessary.
  • Among those populations could be:
    1. Homeless folks
    2. Veterans
    3. Drug and alcohol dependency
    4. Recently released prisoners
    5. Sex offenders
  • Geographically, I’d like it to be near at least a mid-sized (200,000 +) city. Other than that, rural or urban doesn’t really matter.
  • Among the states I’m interested in are:
    1. Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arizona, New Mexico, California and New Hampshire
    2. Hawaii, which gets its own letter just because
  • Many foreign countries as long as they come with language training
  • I’d like it to be a drug- and alcohol-free setting.

As with my childhood letters to Santa Claus, I reserve the right to amend or, more likely, add to this list. I trust you, universe, to know what’s best for me, or at least what’s most interesting. You’ve done a great job for a long time — those growing pains after the Big Bang notwithstanding — and I know you’ll give me what I need, even if I don’t know I want it. Do keep in touch.

Your Friend,


Remember, help the universe do its work, and you’ll get a sonnet or cookies — and the knowledge the universe is a little bit better place.

Keith Howard used to be a homeless drunk veteran. Then he got sober and, eventually, became director of Liberty House in Manchester, a housing program for formerly homeless veterans. There, he had a number of well-publicized experiences – walking away from federal funds in order to keep Liberty House clean and sober, a contretemps with a presidential candidate and a $100,000 donation, a year spent living in a converted cargo trailer in Raymond. Today, he lives in a six-by 12-foot trailer in Pittsburg, NH, a few miles from the Canadian border with his dog, Sam. There, Howard maintains, his website, works on a memoir, and a couple of novels while plotting the next phase of his improbable life.

About this Author


Keith Howard

Executive DirectorHope Recovery

Keith Howard is Executive Director of Hope for NH Recovery and author of Tiny White Box