Worthiness (Community)

This week's post is by Free Meal's Intern and Better Together Committee Member Shea Daniels
I believe community is perpetuated when the worthiness of individual members is perpetuated. So often in spaces that are not the free meals program, I encounter humans disvaluing other humans and it makes me sad. I encounter humans saying mean things. I encounter poets asking engineers to write poems and engineers asking poets to build rocket ships. OK.  Not really. But I do encounter a lot of people who haven’t taken the time to see the gifts and talents of the folks around them, and end up frustrated because the folks around them aren’t meeting some pre-set list of expectations. It’s a matter of worthiness, folks, but it’s also a matter of humanity. Some people are great listeners, some people are great organizers, some people will reliably volunteer to eat the last piece of cake.  These are all fabulous skills, worthwhile skills, and skills that, once accessed, impact the entire community in real and positive ways. People thrive when their skills are recognized and accessed.

I also believe in greeting people warmly. I believe in hugging. I believe in waving. I believe in eye contact.  I believe in high fives and I believe in grinning when someone walks in the door. Did I mention that I believe in hugging? Fellow humans, everyone everywhere needs to know that their presence is appreciated. That they are valued, that they are missed. Communities thrive when members know their presence matters. 

Communities like ours thrive because of our members.  We’re radically inclusive. Everyone, literally everyone, is welcome. We’re not big on judgment and we’re not comfortable assigning social worth based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, native language, religion, or ability levels.  Our basement is a bit Real-World Exempt and, alas, the Basement Economy is also a bit Real-World Exempt. Because you see, loyal reader, here in UCM’s cellar we don’t really believe in a physical economy, even though we know it exists and we know it is useful. Here in the basement we run on a Spiritual Economy. On a non-tangible economy.

Here in the basement we work not only to provide warm, yummy, nutritious food, but also to create a sense of community. We believe people need food as much as they need community, maybe moreso, and we believe community comes when everyone who walks through our doors is treated as a person of value. As a person of worth.

Washing Chairs and Waiting

This week's post is from Better Together Committee Member and Free Meals Intern, Shea Daniels.

As Free Meals Interns Samantha, Michael and myself learned the economy was tanking long before any news broadcast told us. We have gone from feeding 50 on Thursdays this time last year, to 80+ each Thursday currently.  On Saturdays we serve about thirty. Times are tough. Donations aren’t going up. We aren’t like the fancy free meals programs who have the luxury of planning ahead; we run as close to 100% donations as possible. We walk in, see what food has showed up, and within three hours have compiled a meal from whatever is available. 

We believe there will always be food. Sometimes, on foodless days when it’s quiet, you can find me sitting patiently in the basement where our kitchen is located. If you were to ask "what are you doing Shea?" I would tell you, “I am waiting for the food.”  I sit and wait and sit and wait and sometimes, when the waiting stretches long, I turn on music and wash chairs to pass my time. I wash chairs and I wait for food.

It always comes. Someone always walks in with a box or a bag and in that box or bag will be cabbage or carrots or rice or corn. We wait for the food that is going to arrive, and always in the nick of time, it arrives
Here in UCM’s kitchen we believe in the loaves in the fishes. "What is that," you ask?  Well, dear reader, the fishes and the loaves is a Christian story.  Jesus, in his attempt to feed the masses, doesn’t have enough food. In fact he has far from enough food. I’ve heard this called the miracle of the multitude or the miracle of the five loaves and two fish.  This miracle fed 5000.

None of us in the kitchen particularly identify as Christian. I identify as something closer to Christian but not necessarily as Christian. Michael was raised in the Eastern Orthodox church and is a wanna-be Buddhist. Samantha was raised Jewish.  But we all believe in the fishes and the loaves.  Because we’re pretty sure that when you want to feed people, the food will always come. In fact, on quiet foodless days, you can find me listening to music, washing chairs, and waiting.