Yesterday I went to the 34th annual Pot Luck of the Daily Bread Project, a non-profit I inadvertently started one day in 1983 when I brought some loaves of day-old bread from my house to a nearby soup kitchen. Herb and I and the boys had just come back from a winter teaching in China, where scarcity and hunger were still an everyday reality, so my consciousness had been raised about throwing good food away.
That simple act of bringing breads – I think they were left over from some party – to a place where they would be eaten seemed an obvious thing to do; anyhow, I had heard the soup-kitchen’s clientele was growing. I mentioned this to a friend who ran a restaurant, and she and I started bringing surplus from her restaurant to the soup-kitchen as well.
And thus was Daily Bread born – one donor kitchen, one soup-kitchen and 2 women willing to take surplus food twice a week from one place to the other. People heard about what we were doing and offered to help; they talked to their friends who worked in bakeries and produce markets and within a few weeks we had 3 donor businesses, a dozen people offering to ferry food, a very grateful soup-kitchen and a lot of unsolicited manna that went into the daily soup pot.
All done for free.
That was 34 years ago. Today there are 140 volunteer runners, 35 donor businesses, 30 free-food programs and one volunteer coordinator who keeps it all running smoothly - and still no money changes hands. We are now a non-profit, non-budget, simple-as-can-be Robin Hood organization that has been feeding hungry people all these years with food from fine bakeries, grocery stores and restaurants in town – given, received and delivered freely. As one ‘food runner’ said at the potluck,
“This magic works because there’s no money involved, and nobody holds more power than anybody else. I love my runs! I love who I meet there and how good it feels – at the Shelter, they cheer me when I come!”
“It works,” said Patrice who has been Coordinator for the last 9 years, “because it’s so simple. People keep urging us to get grants so we can grow larger, but I won’t do it! It’s about staying small enough, simple enough and personal enough to get stuff done without a big fuss. And we’ve been copied all over the country!”
It’s true, we’re moving tons of food a month quietly, under the radar and in the process, as every Daily Bread volunteer can attest to, we meet the folks who give and the folks who receive, and we make friends across the social divide. It’s called ‘community.’
It’s so obvious.
So here is our troubled society with a Plump calling the shots, and we’re all quaking in our boots – as well we might. We know we’ve got to protest, somehow, but we don’t know how. What if we’re not good fighters? What if we can’t march in the streets, or we don’t have money to pour into activist organizations?
Are there simple and obvious things we can do?
Well, I’m no good at fighting, can’t stand politics and my days of protest marches are long over. I couldn’t even knit a pussy hat if I tried! But there are things I do know how to do, things I love to do and my plan is to do them with everything I’ve got.
So I ask myself, “What is needed the most that I am realistically capable of?” and the Dalai Lama has an answer that speaks for me. He says,
“The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds."
That’s my crowd, that’s my métier and the Dalai Lama has always been my best teacher.
My personal mantra goes something like this:
“What do you love to do that you’re good at? Who do you love to do it with? What can you give 100% of yourself to?”
Plump is simply playing his part, yes he is, because he’s kicked us all in the pants hard enough so we’re now collectively paying attention! Our President before him begged us to get involved, but most of us didn’t. Now that we’re up against some BIG resistance, how can we use it to power our own engines?
I’m reminded of doing Tai Ch’I Ch’uan, the ancient martial art that I first learned in Shanghai in 1983, right after the Cultural Revolution.
My teacher was a man who had spent years in prison during that infamous time for being an intellectual, and twice a week he would come and show me the moves. He was quiet and composed – a person who had suffered greatly but had survived unspeakable brutality intact. There was much to learn from him.
He taught me the circling, gentle moves – sinking and rising, relaxation and breathing and I practiced them diligently every morning. One day while showing him my progress outside our apartment block, he lightly touched me on the shoulder with one finger and I fell over and landed heavily on the ground.
When I got up, rather stupefied by what had just happened, he said,
“Must be strong on inside, soft on outside. I push with my power, you receive soft – not fall down! You take it from me and cycle it around, sink back, then return power to me, strong from my strong – receive soft, push back strong! Use my power to make your power! You want be strong like pine tree? Be strong inside! Outside, relax, like dance.
Slowly, over time, my body, mind and spirit have been learning this.
Relax. Dance. Feed the ones who are hungry. Restore yourself, then some part of your world. Make peace with your mother. Tell wonderful stories. Be a healing presence.
That is the way of resistance.
We can do this.