Nomadland and Faith Communities Revisited

Photo by Oziel Gomez from


My post on the movie Nomadland stirred some great conversations. These discussions caused me to see how my circumstances as a financially secure, privileged white man led to some unintentional romanticizing of the experience of being homeless and living in the back of a pick-up truck.

A former colleague who led the Human Resources department for the national YMCA was the first to offer a wider perspective on Nomadland. “This movie made me sad. I have a close friend who is elderly. She cannot afford an apartment and has no relatives. She has no community and is alone, fighting to survive. This is nothing but sad. I know far too many African-American women who are living on the edge and are a few dollars or a bad break away from this desperate survival life. I had a hard time seeing the benefits of community and the faith in this. My sadness blocked that.”

Another colleague from nonprofit work in Baltimore, who is retired in West Virginia, shared: “I, too, have understood that being part of a faith community helps my faith and sustains me. I know too many people who have ended up alone – never sure why all the ties that bind have been severed. I’ve especially witnessed this with the elderly and people with chronic illness. It’s heart-wrenching when they literally have no other person to call on except a volunteer.”

A guest contributor committed to environmental justice offered his reflections:

“I loved Nomadland on many levels. I like to say we are ALL Nomads on different time frames. Currently, my wife Renee and I live and travel on our sailboat and use our Dodge Caravan as our ‘garage’ and camper with a simple mattress and camping gear. We feel the most freedom when we are free of stuff – that’s the deeper level of the movie as we have the privilege to choose to do so while knowing full well there are those who must live in vans and cars. Similarly with bicycling. I was privileged to choose to ride my bike 160,000 miles to work for 30 years while I encountered many who HAD to ride as they had no other choice. Nomads have always scared those who are anchored. They are the ones who have the most freedom so therefore are the most dangerous to a strict society of culture, norms, and laws.”

Another guest contributor, who retired in Connecticut, added: “I really enjoyed this post on Nomadland — a great movie about a hidden American reality. I remember several years ago traveling in New Mexico and coming upon one of these communities. It was both sad that people had been removed from our economy and inspiring for the sense of community they had built.”

These different perspectives remind me how I have only one set of experiences and one lens. Isn’t it our job, as part of the world community, to find ways to broaden our understanding of people and compassion for those with different perspectives and radically different life journeys? For me, finding a faith community that reminds me of this larger call to love and compassion is an essential part of the faith pilgrimage.


  • Tom Adams writes and speaks on topics vital to the intersection of our personal lives with our community and global lives. He has for decades been engaged in and written about nonprofit leadership and transitions, spirituality and spiritual growth, how we each contribute to a more just and equitable world and recovery from addictions and the Twelve Step recovery movement.


  1. Joe Muth

    Tom, The faith community is important, but many people have to search for the faith community that makes sense to them. I have found many people go on a “church search” to discover a community that is accepting and welcoming. Many couples do this for themselves and their children, and they will travel across town to find the right community. It is not always the neighborhood church.

    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Joe for sharing your experience. Yes it is a personal decision how and where to find a faith community. Thanks, Tom

  2. Shirin McArthur

    Thank you, Tom, for sharing these varied responses to your Nomadland post. They deepen and broaden my understanding of these complex issues and I am grateful!


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