I was writing a (paper!) letter to my 18-year-old sister, who lives in Oregon, the other day and I thought that a small part of what I was telling her would be appropriate for this blog, as it is a reflection on the work that I do at the Hippie Kitchen. Yes, amazingly enough, people do still write paper letters to one another! My sister is an anomaly of this tech generation; she won't have anything to do with computers and barely knows how to use the features on her cell phone. The only other gadget she uses is her iPod, which is a fairly user friendly piece of smart plastic. If only more people could live without constant internet access [cough, cough].
Here's what I wrote to my sister JJ in my real-life paper letter:
I'm very happy with my life. Living in community is my lifeblood. I love sharing food, space and time with other people. I think it may be a part of my innate personality (I have been reading a bit about psychology and personality typing lately). I also love my "job", which I don't get paid for. These days I have been "working" behind the counter of our small clinic, where I pass out generic medications and hygiene needs, like soap or toothpaste. Today is dentist day, so I get to hear the exciting high pitched drone of his drill.
The soup kitchen I am a full-time volunteer for is called the "hippie kitchen". At least that's what everyone calls it. Officially, it's the "Catholic Worker Hospitality Kitchen", but nobody refers to it that way. It's been around for almost 40 years and some of the some of the original founding members are still here. Catherin is 75 years old and works hard, like someone 20 years younger than that.
We have a beautiful garden space at the kitchen, an oasis in the heart of this grimy concrete jungle. This is called "Skid Row", this part of downtown LA. The name "Skid Row" is synonymous everywhere with filth, homelessness and suffering. The Hippie Kitchen is a break from that, in a way, with its tall, lush trees and pretty picnic tables. But it's also a display of the sad conditions of this place and its oppressed people. We do what we can to share with them our resources and to relieve them, for a while, of the hardships of the sidewalk. But, beyond the meals, shopping carts and painkillers, all we have to give is our smiles and our patience.