Be the Cause

Sujana’s happy meal

With her own two hands, Sujana prepared a homemade Indian meal for the Ladies at the Downtown Women’s Center this past Sunday. In a sense, she was a savior in more ways than one. We could have ended up with some food made rather in the Indian-style, based on recipes I would have plucked from or “The Best Recipes of the World.”

For all the BTC potlucks I’ve gone to, I’ve always opted to bring the fizzy lemonade in favor of the vegetarian dish. You see, to anyone raised on McDonald’s and mac n’ cheese, lentils are just scary. When we first met to discuss what we would serve at the DWC, I was under the impression that the Ladies were more “meat ‘n potato” kinda gals, and so they’d sneer at things like curries and tofu. I was soooo wrong. Sujana’s samosas, lentils and rice with vegetables were met with loud applause and gratitude. How could I have ruled out serving the very food that so many BTC folks love to make and share in their very homes? From now on, I think that instead of calling this a service project, we’ll just put out an invite and say that we’re getting together for a potluck at the DWC in true BTC style.

I’ve realized that at its core, this project is no longer about homelessness, trying to spark up a meaningful conversation with a complete stranger or feeling guilty for having “more than others.” More volunteers than I had expected to see inevitably turn up everytime. Inevitably, some Ladies will sit at the tables in front of the kitchen and just watch us, relaxed and smiling. Inevitably someone will show up with something special: Supun with his cartons of juice and water bottles, Joyce with that killer cake, Anna with fabulous peaches from her father’s tree. They see us pour a lot of labor and goodness and happiness into that meal. It’s so beautiful to see everyone light up. This is what it’s all about.

On that deathly hot day, the Ladies came in for lunch and were locked in for one hour. During that one hour, they could escape the heat, relax and be fed by some pretty amazing people who had somehow been drawn to the Center that day — even though they had other things initially in mind. By the end, volunteers were offering to bring Vietnamese or Nicaraguan food. Maybe I’ll throw down and bring some Filipino food as well.

It’s as if the line between guest and host has been blurred. You can show up with or without food; serve or don’t serve. We’d all still be so happy to have you.

New Ideas

Cause the BE.
Below are suggestions from the ‘New Concepts’ breakout session at the All Hands On Meeting. We’d like to open it up to you to discuss these ideas or to share a suggestion of your own. (Thanks Srikanth for the summary!)

Ann asked the question of how BTC can reach out to more of the mainstream society, not just socially conscious, eco-environmental friendly people, or service oriented individuals.

Vivek: Wants to host a “Human Greatness Night” where ordinary people share their success stories and inspire each other. He has already done it with other groups, wants to bring it to BTC.

Jesse: Katrina Concert in August, Peach 4 Kids involvement

Bill: shared story of family that came from Philippines and now living in Socal. He says kids/young teens don’t have a avenue to channel their energies or grow and adapt into their new social environment. E.g. WFH was one of the few events that allowed them to do that. Possible project is a Youth Mentorship Program between BTC and kids in O.C. area? Jesse was asked about a Peace 4 Kids chapter in O.C. that could serve this need?

Carolina: We should dialog with existing orgs. who are already doing similar outreach programs.

Bharti shared her experiences about CASA and working with youths. Laura said it would be nice to have some kind of BTC leadership development for youths so they can come into BTC, get mentored, and eventually lead some of our projects.

Dwight-Catholic Worker needs researchers to find out what other cities are doing on homelessness.

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