The election this week left me sad, angry, frustrated, and broken-hearted. Our president-elect is someone who has shown us through his words and actions that he is someone who believes people who are immigrants, minorities, disabled, Muslim, LGBTQ, female, or otherwise different, are not equal to him, should not be treated with respect, and should not be afforded the protections of our laws. He also thinks global warming isn't real. More than ever, those of us who value equality, tolerance, civil rights, the environment, and frankly, personal decency, need to act and lead by example from wherever we are.
I was inspired this past week by a post that author Catherine Newman wrote: "Service is the road to happiness...we can support the most vulnerable people in our communities, either in established ways—volunteering with organizations that serve youth and queers and the poor and the elderly and other people in need who need our time; involving ourselves in local politics and issues; donating money to local causes we believe in—or in creative ones." She went on to explain how her friend, Kate Schatz, delivered flowers to the Islamic Center of Alameda. I read Catherine's post while I waited for Wyatt to finish chasing the pigeons at the Ferry Building on Friday. I thought to myself, we could do that.
Before heading back to the muni station, I Googled Islamic organizations and mosques, and I found a mosque in the Tenderloin. Wyatt and I stopped to buy some flowers from a woman outside the Embarcadero subway entrance on Market Street. I didn't ask, but Helena, the florist, shared with us that she is from Poland and has lived and worked in this country for many years. (I suspect she might have been having a terrible election week, too.) She carefully boxed the arrangement we had chosen so it would survive the trip on the train, and I wrote a little card.
Because Wyatt prefers to use all forms of public transit whenever possible, he insisted we take BART to Civic Center. Once at Civic Center, he complained bitterly about the ride being too short, but the busker crooning Carole King's "It's Too Late" took his mind off it. We began to make our way up Market Street. Along the way, we watched a police officer fall off the the back of his mountain bike as he tried to perfect a wheelie ("Someday I'll get it!" he said cheerfully) while his partner shook his head and rode on, we saw some homeless people sleeping, some asking for money, and a variety of "activity" as we walked up Jones Street.
Once we had arrived at the address, I realized I didn't know how to deliver flowers to a mosque. It was time for prayer, and there were men hurrying in, removing their shoes, and washing their hands. Wyatt and I were definitely out of place. I said to the man closest to me at the entrance, "We have these flowers to give to the community." He looked at me and said, "But I don't know any of these people." Me neither. So I said, "Well, I don't want to interrupt...would it be okay if I left them here by the sink?" And he replied, "Yes. I think that would be fine." So that's what we did.
On our way out, Wyatt noticed some mothers wearing headscarves sitting on the sidewalk with children in their laps. They were holding signs asking for money. "Are those KIDS homeless?" he asked me once we were down the block. "Maybe," I said, and I could feel Wyatt's little hand tighten in mine it as the weight of their reality hit him. Does empathy start when we notice an aspect of ourselves in someone who is suffering? I can't know for sure, but we have been discussing homelessness off and on ever since.
There is a lot of work ahead of us. And as Wyatt's and my Friday flower delivery showed, sometimes we won't know what we're doing and we'll feel awkward, but we will do our best, and we will learn. I realize that dropping off flowers isn't the only answer, but it felt good to offer a small kindness directly to people who, as I told Wyatt, "are probably even more upset about the election than we are." Marc and I are also looking at how we can better impact our community and country in terms of volunteering our time and donating money to established organizations. We will also be vigilant in contacting our representatives in an effort to hold them accountable.
Meanwhile, I've been a terrible cook this week. Awful news affects me on pretty much every level, and this week I lost interest in eating anything other than pretzels, which is bad news for the people I live with. But we have been muddling through thanks in part to some homemade Lara-esque bars Wyatt and I made last on Sunday while the cookies for the Hillary volunteers were baking. It seems like a lifetime ago. Here's the recipe in case you want to make the bars, too.
- 12 ounces of dried apricots
- 16 ounces of cashews
- 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
- 2 oz raw hemp seeds
Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and let it run for several minutes, until everything is in tiny pieces and has come together. Line a rimmed baking pan with waxed paper (or parchment) and press the mixture down evenly into the pan. These are yours to make whatever shape you want, so however thick you want them, go for it. Cut them in whatever shapes you like. Refrigerate the pan, and eat up once they're firm. You do need to keep the bars refrigerated, or they get smushy.