The Los Angeles Catholic Worker and "Hippie Kitchen"
For the last three weeks, I have been working and staying with the Catholic Worker community in East Los Angeles. A quick sum-up from the LACW website tells us this about the community:
The Los Angeles Catholic Worker community is part of the lay Catholic Worker movement founded over seventy years ago by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin to "feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner" and offer a gospel-based critique of the dominant culture within the Catholic tradition but outside the institutionalized structures of the church.
Founded in 1970, the Los Angeles Catholic Worker is a lay Catholic community of men and women which operates a free soup kitchen, hospitality house for the homeless, hospice for the dying, a newspaper, and regularly offers prophetic witness in opposition to war-making and injustice.
I am not a Catholic, but I truly respect and admire Dorothy Day in her activism and her faith. From my perspective, she was a sincere individual, trying hard to reconcile her belief in God with the injustice that she saw religion doing nothing about. The result: Catholic Worker hospitality homes and soup kitchens across the world. :D
The way I see religion now, is as a tool. Someone's spirituality can be used to encourage that person to improve themselves and the world, and yet like any tool, it can also be used for ill. We have seen religion used as a manipulative instrument, as a means of power and control and for the gaining of wealth.
Thankfully in Dorothy's case, God was a motivation towards the light in her and in others.
Another inspiring, "enlightened" individual I have been reading about lately is the old lady who went by the name "Peace Pilgrim". She was also someone that let God use her and the spirituality she sought to work towards peace in the world and goodwill towards all people. More about her and about religion in some later post. This is supposed to be an update.
So, I have been staying at the community house (a beautiful, old Victorian three story home shared by as many as twenty people) and spending most of my time working with the Catholic Workers either in the house or at their colorful soup kitchen (aka "the Hippie Kitchen", at right, featuring my friend Martha) in Skid Row. I have begun to feel that I have found a niche here at the CW house and that the work we are doing is something I am "called" to be a part of. It reminds me of working at the community volunteer center in Kenya, and of the satisfaction we all feel when doing something that has a strong sense of purpose to it. (And of course I would be thinking of Kenya when David, our young Kenyan friend here at the house, made us chapatis and sukuma wiki for dinner tonight...)
When I am not spending time at the house or the kitchen, I am likely to be in a dumpster (or at some bike or freegan related event).
Last Friday, the Los Angeles Dumpster Diving meetup had our first "Dumpster Ride and Freegan Meal" event. It was a lot of fun, and attracted a nice little group of people, many of whom were new to dumpster diving and had never heard of Freeganism.
The idea behind the ride was to be an educational event, combining the social bike riding crowd with the dumpster divers and to see what happened. What came of it was a 12 or so mile bike ride that stopped at five or so dumpsters, and a large and delicious (and free!) meal cooked up and enjoyed by a diverse group of people. The event was a success in any way I would use the term. To see more pictures of the night, click here.
Not only did we have fantastic fun, we also rescued a lot of good food. What 15 or so people had for a late dinner that night was only a fraction of the food we pulled from the dumpster on our ride. Our haul consisted of a bag of potted plants (in need of a little love, but beautiful nonetheless), lots of good meat (including incredible salmon and barbecue pork), a case of hummus (minus a cracked container, of course), a mountain of blueberries, some nice bread, lots of tomatoes and eggs and so much more...
And my plans keep changing...
I have been trying to pin down what I want to do this summer, but I have discovered that life doesn't want to be pinned down! But that's just fine with me, since the unpredictability of life is something beautiful that many people miss out on in our current system of doing things.
It's still that same old lesson of learning to not be attached to anything. If we can take it day by day, each thing that happens (whether planned or not), can be greeted with a contented smile and a sense of newness and surprise.
With that in mind, I think I will stop saying what I hope to do this summer and just review what has happened after the time has passed. Well, let me just say, I think it will be fantastic fun...
See ya next time!