Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beginnings - Chickens and Chaos

It's my third day of work here at Spirit of Hope and this morning I did chicken chores almost entirely by myself. My first couple days have been a bit hectic and scattered because my supervisor is out of town. So I've been sort-of belonging to several different people and projects over these first days. That in itself is not so different from how my work will be for the year - a variety of different projects that all get a bit of my time; the difference is that the person who has the best sense of the grand plan isn't here to explain it to us. BUT that has left me with a lot of time to get to know the people, animals, and space I'll be working with over the next year. For example, I've started out each day with chicken chores (which also cover four ducks and a turkey named Uncle Bob) and some good conversation with the folks who come to AA at the church each morning. This morning we had nine chicken eggs and a duck egg; yesterday we watched Uncle Bob put one of the aggressive, abusive roosters in his place. This morning I was invited to an impromptu five-minute dance party in the side lot of the church building. It's a good way to start the day.

Things are also going well on the home front. We're slowly but surely settling into something of a routine of cooking, keeping track of what food to buy on the weekend, getting to know neighbors, figuring out how to establish good time and space boundaries with the kids on our block. I've also been looking at different churches to visit. I'm mixed on the idea of worshiping where I work - which is too bad, because Spirit of Hope looks like a great place! But there are a few congregations closer to our neighborhood, as well as a couple others that look interesting over this way. (For context - I live on the east side of town and work in a neighborhood just northwest of downtown. Detroit is situated on the Huron River, which separates the US side from Windsor, Ontario. The city is oriented more-or-less lengthwise, east-to-west, like St. Paul, not north-to-south, like Minneapolis.)

I ride my bike four miles to work each morning, which is really convenient because Mack Ave (which we live just one block south of) becomes Martin Luther King Blvd, which is the street the church sits on. So after I take my left out onto Mack, I don't have to even switch lanes until I'm at the church. I realized yesterday that this is the farthest I've ever lived from where I worked - by about double. It's funny how localized one's life can be.

On Monday, before starting work on Tuesday, we took tours of Spirit of Hope and Gleaners, Inc., which is where Ariana works. Gleaners is a HUGE food clearning house for the five-county metro area. They work with a lot of major food processors as well as local farmers to get large-scale deals on food donations, which they then turn around and offer to local food shelves and kitchens, passing on the deals that the smaller operations might not be able to get because of scale. They also run a whole gamut of cooking classes geared toward getting folks acquainted with exactly what one can do with some of the food that comes in. Then they also run a program called Kids Helping Kids, where school-age children come and pack backpacks with a weekend worth of food for kids who face food insecurity at home. All in all, pretty exciting work. They also do something similar to a CSA, but which you can order monthly, which provides a box full of produce each month for $17. We're definitely going to subscribe to that program as a house. One of Ariana's other projects will be to plan local events for Food Day, a day similar to Eath Day, dedicated to growing awareness and commitment around issues of food justice, from the Farm Bill to Urban Ag to justice for food service and farmworkers.

I'm also getting acquainted with the various levels of services provided around HIV education and prevention in the area. It seems that the current school board president is really involved with the education and testing end, so I will hopefully be able to talk with her today or tomorrow.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Think of yourself and say

Think of Others
by Mahmoud Darwish

As you prepare your breakfast – think of others.
Don’t forget to feed the pigeons.
As you conduct your wars – think of others.
Don’t forget those who want peace.
As you pay your water bill – think of others.
Think of those who only have clouds to drink from.
As you go home, your own home – think of others – don’t forget those who live in tents.
As you sleep and count the planets, think of others – there are people who have no place to sleep.
As you liberate yourself with metaphors think of others – those who have lost their right to speak.
And as you think of distant others – think of yourself and say “I wish I were a candle in the darkness.”

This is a busy week, with packing and preparations for moving once again. A week from today I'll hop on a MegaBus with a one-way ticket to Detroit. Lutheran Volunteer Corps orientation is in the Twin Cities this year, so I have an extra week in town, but it'll be pretty full.

I gave a presentation at my mom's church last night, preceded by making up four pounds of beans and almost 40 tortillas. It was stressful in a couple moments (like when my metal comal didn't cook the tortillas evenly and ended up burning several of them). But now this morning I've woken up with a familiar feeling in my fingertips from all the flipping and accidentally touching the griddle and clothes smelling like corn masa. These simple, pleasant sensations, along with the fact that I can justify wearing a sweater on this wonderfully cool August (August!) morning, means that I've been able to find moments of calm in the midst of the whirlwind of moving again.

Mahmoud Darwish's poem is fairly new to me, but it has been a helpful reminder not to let the mundane, daily elements of my life become too routine without acknowledging that there is something extraordinary in them. And that many things that should be a given in a human life are not for many, many people. Sometimes I'm tempted by the sexiness of thinking of myself and wondering how I can be a huge, burning fire - all on my own. But poetry and religious traditions the world over wouldn't have wisdom on the importance of even a single candle against the darkness if there wasn't something to it.