We Can Build Hope

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Edit, October 1st:

Last night, the US government shut down, stalled in negotiations by a small minority. This is affecting aid to women with infants and small children, veterans, and a whole host of others. Mutual Aid has always been important, but is becoming more and more so every day. In my mind, we must find better ways to  care for each other, and take our power back.

I wrote this last week, on September 25th: 

 

“Every single person in the world should have food, shelter, healthcare, and education, before any person is worth billions.” – Umair Haque, economist

 

Yesterday at the house of hospitality, in two hours and ten minutes we went through 80 gallons of soup, several giant bowls full of salad bigger than my arms can encircle, and tray after tray of bread. I don’t have exact measurements of the salad and bread, but unless you cater huge events, it is more than you might imagine.

The yard was jammed, pretty much every seat filled in the dining room, under the outside canopy and in the sunny yard, on benches set up around the blooming roses and small trees. A lot of people were sleeping where they could find a slot to tuck a blanket. Life on the street is exhausting. They know that here, behind these gates, they most likely don’t have to worry about being beaten, robbed or moved along.

I posted the amount we had served yesterday and got several nice responses along the lines of “you do good work.” That wasn’t what I was after. What I was trying to convey, in posting the stats and closing with “People are hungry” was that this is just one soup kitchen in one city. 46.5 million people in the US live below the poverty line. It would take a paltry $175.3 billion to bring them all up to the poverty line. That would likely be enough to get a large number of people on their feet. Not all, but many.

People are hungry.

People are starving. People need education. People are being killed on the streets and in their homes. People are being killed by drones, from the sky. People need clean water. People need beauty.

The world is out of balance, the Divine Twins of generosity and greed are both present, but too often these days, the Twin of greed seems to be holding sway. “…despite recent turbulent economic times, demand for super yachts has remained steady” reports Luxury Society. We know the other stories, too: the cost of celebrity weddings, money which could provide clean drinking water for a million children. The U.S. Government selling arms to dictatorships all over the world, making a profit from oppression. 500 prisoners in California having spent 10 years in solitary confinement. War veterans getting their food stamps taken away…

And yet, last week when I asked people to share the ways in which they engage in mutual aid, all sorts of answers came in: donating to food banks, working in a mental health clinic, offering emotional support to friends, setting up barter economy, growing and sharing food, volunteering at domestic violence shelters, doing drug counseling, offering showers and meals to young people in their neighborhood.

The Divine Twin of generosity walks strongly among us. 

Why am I writing this? It is easy to give way to frustration and hopelessness when things feel skewed and out of control. It is easy to lose our sense of center and agency. It is easy to give our power away to those we see as controlling the systems we live within.

We don’t have to let greed take over. We can match greed with generosity, bringing greater equilibrium to the world. We can mediate these forces, making space for a third force to arise, a new way of being that we can’t even see, hear, taste, or touch yet.

We can build hope. No one is going to give it to us, despite their promises. We can claim our power and share it with one another. 

Help me. Please share the ways in which you are sowing love, justice, and beauty. Share with us the ways in which you are allowing generosity to flow. Share ideas about how we can help one another.

What kind of world do you want to build and how are you helping to manifest it?

 

15 Responses to “We Can Build Hope”

  1. Leanne Pemburn

    Next week it’s my department’s turn to serve lunch at Our Daily Bread in Baltimore. And every day I try to remember to listen and be open.

    Reply
  2. Labrys

    I think fear is the first thing that must be torn down, people do the worst things when afraid. I work every day to relieve fear where I see it, I contribute to organizations that help with fear and suffering (like Remote Area Medical) and continue to talk inclusion and love as attributes of a real civilization.

    Reply
  3. Tony

    I give money to fight hunger, environmental devastation, and to promote spiritual and creative acts, even when I feel I can only spare $5 or $10. I provide mental health treatment to low-income individuals and do what I can to help them connect with housing and other resources. I support my friends and coworkers in doing their work and becoming more fully themselves. My partner and I sometimes offer folks a place to crash when they are in need. I speak out for treating people with dignity and respect.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      That is so great, Tony. I especially like the reminder to us all within your last sentence, not only do we need to speak out for treating others with dignity and respect, but attempting to act on that in the little ways can have a large effect.

      Reply
  4. MaryAnn Jackman

    Martin’s has always been the most popular place for the hungry to find a meal not only because the food is good but because there is love, respect and acceptance there that they can’t find in that abundance anywhere else in town. But that doesnt account for the numbers. Greed accounts for the numbers, and it continues to get worse. Feeding people is wonderful and an urgent need, but we also have to do something to stop the thing that is causing the hunger. There is an old story about people along a river bank mobilizing to save babies that are floating down the river, and that is important, but the real need is for people to go upriver and stop the people who are throwing them in to begin with. We need to get at the root causes more effectively. Not sure how, or if it is even possible. Meanwhile, I am so glad Martin’s is still there.

    Reply
  5. MaryAnn Jackman

    I think maybe what I’m trying to say is we need to look at how we are feeding into what’s causing it — are we part of the group that is throwing the babies in the river, or part of the group that is doing something concrete about the problem. Each of us can be contributing in subtle ways we’re not even aware of.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Yes, MaryAnn, we need to look at the causes, and the systems, at the same time we are trying to help what is in front of us.

      Thing is, spending a lot of time looking at the systems can feel overwhelming. I like hearing about specific things people are doing to shift things. That gives me hope.

      I try to address systems of racism, for example, in a variety of ways. I supported Occupy, a movement which brought direct attention to the greed at hand.

      Large actions or small – they all make a difference. The baby that gets caught is happy to have been caught. And yes, someone also needs to be looking at who is doing the throwing, and whether or not we are supporting them somehow. We are all part of these systems. Everything interlocks.

      Reply
  6. Randy

    I think simple acts of kindness on a daily basis can truly make a difference.When I’m out in the world, I strive to walk in compassion, & treat everyone I encounter with dignity & respect, especially those who work in service jobs, because the general public is not always kind to them. I travel via public transportation, & always go out of my way to thank the MUNI bus drivers. Prior to moving here from NY, I lost my wallet in Manhattan. An intern in a law office found it, & went out of her way to see it was returned to me. I found a wallet on the bus 2 weeks ago; it belonged to an 18 year old SFSU student, who works in Starbucks. I was given the opportunity to reciprocate what a total stranger did for me. He couldn’t believe he got his wallet back, with everything in it. I believe in what Orion Foxwood once said: “Faith is the bridge over which miracles trod.” I see faith & hope hand-in-hand.

    Reply
  7. Randy

    I think simple acts of kindness on a daily basis can truly make a difference.When I’m out in the world, I strive to walk in compassion, & treat everyone I encounter with grace, especially those who work in service jobs, because the general public is not always kind to them. I travel via public transportation, & always go out of my way to thank the MUNI bus drivers. Prior to moving here from NY, I lost my wallet in Manhattan. An intern in a law office found it, & went out of her way to see it was returned to me. I found a wallet on the bus 2 weeks ago; it belonged to an 18 year old SFSU student, who works in Starbucks. I was given the opportunity to reciprocate what a total stranger did for me. He couldn’t believe he got his wallet back, with everything in it. I believe in what Orion Foxwood once said: “Faith is the bridge over which miracles trod.” I see faith & hope hand-in-hand.

    Reply
  8. Kim McDonald

    Some of the kids in my shelter are not victims of abuse, but of various forms of neglect. Often they come from poverty, homelessness or from families overburdened trying to care for relatives children. These families often find themselves set up with treatments plans that include anger management classes, parenting classes, drug and alcohol treatment and psych evals. None of these are bad things, but they cost quite a bit of money. We’ve heard of some parents having to pay up to $4000.
    As a result, we have kids who have families to go back to but they languish in foster care sometimes for years.
    Then there are children who have been abused, who don’t want,to go home, but do anyway because their parents have money or are able to afford better lawyers.
    The system is’nt just skewed, it’s broken.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Kim, thank you so much for sharing this, and for the work you do.

      I agree that the systems are broken. I also know that we can still help one another, even if some days that feels like a drop in a very large bucket.

      Reply

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