Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Day in the Life

My lifestyle is perhaps a little unusual to some people who read this, so I thought I might give a very rough outline of what my friends and I do on a regular basis. Some of my old friends from Oregon have asked me on Facebook what it is I am up to these days. I'm not in college (no big debt or unwanted careers for me, thank you very much) nor do I work in a paid job. Instead I live in an intentional community, where I am a full-time volunteer. I was inspired by this little section of our website, which does a good job of explaining a "typical" kitchen (at left) day:

A Typical Day

Well, there are no typical days at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker. When one of your values is precocity, anything can happen. Our cars get stolen, our house gets broken into, our bank account runs dry, people die, get sick, lose their jobs, get arrested, or rip us off. But these are, hopefully, balanced by the times in which we are divinely surprised by that one thousand dollar check, the angry person who caused a fight yesterday coming back today to apologize, the person who once ate at the soup kitchen returning after ten years of sobriety to thank us for our work, or finding a wonderful gift of brie cheese in the food donation. By definition, being vulnerable to God’s grace and goodness means that we must be equally vulnerable to chaos and disaster as well.

With that said here is what we do on a typical day of serving lunch at our downtown kitchen. If you are on the early crew you arrive at the kitchen by 6:45 a.m.–the plants must be watered, the garden and sidewalk must be swept, the kitchen must be setup, and if you have time, you can grab some toast and jam before the real work begins.

The official day at the kitchen begins at 7:45 a.m. with the prayer of St. Francis "Lord, make me a channel of your peace, where there is hatred let me bring your love…" By 9:30 a.m. we, with the help of our volunteers, have finished chopping the salad, cooking the soup, buttering the bread, and after a brief prayer we begin serving.

By noontime we have served anywhere from one thousand to two thousand meals and if you are lucky, everyone who came to the garden to eat was in a good mood, or their mood improved when they got here and there were no altercations. By now you are pretty tired and you might like to take a nap, but you have an hour of clean up to do.

At the end of the day we gather around the chopping block for an agape service, breaking bread together and breaking open the Word of God. If it is Tuesday, you will go to our weekly business meeting which usually runs from 2-4 p.m. Then if it is not your house night, (meaning you don’t have to prepare dinner for the house), you can take a nap until 6 p.m. when dinner is served.

That little description is only of what we do on the first half of our Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. We also serve a small breakfast on the street on Wednesdays and Fridays, which is followed by a vigil of protest against the war (against all war, actually). We also have other community activities that take place throughout the week.

And besides all that, I like to do other activities outside of the community schedule, like hanging out with Eric and other friends through dumpster diving, meetups, and social bike rides.

For example, today I got up around 5:10AM because I had stayed in Pasadena (northeast of the kitchen) after a concert last night. I had to get to downtown (where the soup kitchen is in Skid Row) by 6:40 to help set up for the day's work. Taking the train, with the aid of my bike, takes almost an hour. Then, after the day at the kitchen, my weekend officially starts (at about 2PM) and so I head back to Pasadena (where Eric lives) until Monday morning.

I love the life I am leading. I feel that what we do is a great thing. We are more than just a service to the residents of the Skid Row community, we are their friends. Jeff and Catherine, the oldest couple in our house, have been helping to run this thing for almost 40 years. They know many, many of the homeless and very-low-income people in the area and are respected very highly.

And besides, it's all so fun!

I welcom any questions about things I may have left out or about anything.

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