Davies Matthews Band
Today the Davies Matthews Band (with Tim and Erik, without Charlie) went to New Jerusalem, a home for recovering addicts. We sat with them in a sharing circle and heard each persons life stories and struggles with addiction .
I walked into the New Jerusalem home today expecting to hear about people who were struggling daily with their addictions. As I have been a guest at a couple of these meetings over the years I thought I knew what to expect. I was sure I would hear stories of troubled pasts, abuse, violence in the home and certainly story after story about relapse and how bad things were in the lives of those sharing. There was abuse and crime. There was violence and heartbreak. There was unemployment and loss. There was poverty and families pulled apart and destroyed by the ravage of drugs. There were all of things that seemed to typically be a part of the discussion surrounding addictions menace to humans.
What I did NOT expect to see was so much hope. So much grace, so much love , so much community. I was simply overwhelmed by it. So much so that as we finished the sharing circle I started to feel a swelling of emotion growing inside of me. Visibly I was starting to lose it and Brenda, one of the members, saw this, came over to me and offered me a hug. At that point the tears were unstoppable and poured out in sobs on her shoulder. I cried. I cried hard. I was filled with so many unexpected feelings. And, I was inspired. I was moved. What I was hearing that New Jerusalem's program is WORKING. People are recovering and not relapsing. These people with the help of Sister Margaret and crew were creating a community. A community where each person is responsible to themselves AND to the group. They help each other. THEY are the experts in their experience and they are the ones expected to do the work. And it IS working. (Instead of a top-down medical model.) New Jerusalem has people coming in to research the way in which it is working, because it's so different from other programs.
I lost my sister to a drug overdose almost ten years ago and I think that I was feeling hurt and sad. Sad that this program wasn't available to my loved one. Sad that this is the only place I know of that is doing this kind of work in the way that they are doing it and that this is not the model we as a society are using.
And yet, I am hopeful that the word is getting out. I intend on doing some of the informing. The love and care and message was clear...drugs don't discriminate and their only job is to destroy.
I knew the closing prayer well, when we said it, from the years of journeying with my sister:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
"The Green Machines"
I entered Broad Street Ministry through a narrow alley and into their back door. I began taking in my surroundings: volunteers hurrying to get ready for a task unknown to me, chefs preparing a meal also unknown to me, hallways leading to other rooms...
What was I doing here? What needs to be done? I received my first instruction to fill water jugs and then transport them to a dining hall. The sous chef, Franklin, brightened up and introduced himself the moment I turned the faucet on. He began telling me directions of how to get to the dining hall, and how much of a pleasure it was to be working with SPF today; the fact that other people shared his passion for extending a hand filled him with constant joy.
Finally getting a sense of my surroundings, and having finished filling the water jugs, I headed toward the dining hall. I climbed the stairs of the church to where the dining hall was, turned the corner, and my jaw dropped.
I've been to a few soup kitchens in Boston during the 2012 SPF mission trip, but never have I seen a dining area such as this. Beautiful origami birds hanging from the high ceiling, tables with cloth and center pieces neatly placed through out the large gathering space, upbeat music being played through speakers. I was in shock the entire time I was placing the water jugs on each table.
It was then that I began to realize the message Broad Street Ministry was promoting: nobody is better than the person next to them, no one deserves to eat in a crummy corner. The volunteers ate with the other guests of Broad Street Ministry. I later learned that people even under the influence of alcohol were allowed in, with the mind set that those guests are safer in the church than on the street.
Some SPFers were food servers, others conversed with the guests. My job was to put together "personal care" packages. How this system works is before and during the meal, guests fill out a slip of paper with items and check boxes already listed. Some of these items are "shampoo," "deodorant," "tooth brush," and even "underwear." Underwear of all sizes and styles up to the guests personal choice. The slip was turned into me, and then I would go to a storage room and quickly fill a paper bag with the requested items of the guest. This operation extended beyond the distribution of food; we were giving people basic items that we often take for granted.
And the people were so grateful! So joyous! Every time I handed a bag over, I would be thanked two, three, four times. Many of these guests were so optimistic about the help they were offered. I felt like I had to raise my happiness level up to match these people. It was amazing!
Broad Street Ministry even did a similar process for all articles of clothing. I didn't participate in that operation, but I was seeing this system in action with the purpose of providing people who sought help the help they required. And sometimes the guests came in only for a conversation. When I finished packing personal care bags, I began talking to this one guest. He talked about his dreams of traveling across the country, about his passion for American history. I was learning so much about this individual, who so often in his past didn't feel like an individual, but rather a "thing" that wasn't allowed to dream.
I was touched, tears were building in my eyes. It was driven home to me today that fortune can't completely separate bodies of people. The guests and us SPFers had really similar dreams, of traveling, of learning. And why shouldn't we have similar dreams? We are all human, and I'll never forget that.
"The Pink Squad"
It was an early day for the pink squad, but it was arguably the best one. We had to wake up at 6:30, and had to be at Philabundance at 8:30. Somehow, we all got up, showered, and found ourselves on the road at 7:45. We were yawning and falling asleep, but we made it there by 8:00.
It was an interesting time at Philabundance. We were all so excited to be back, and step into the meat locker today, a day which felt 105 degrees. Thinking first come, first serve, we waited for assignments to be made. Finally, when the time came around, we realized were too late. Another group already asked for the meat locker. Here we were, stuck in the main warehouse, sorting canned goods. The second we settled in, we all longed for the meat storage. And then we realized what goods were coming through: tons and tons of food that would be going to the people of New Jerusalem, and then we felt overjoyed. We settled in, and starting enjoying every bit of it. We turned the conveyer belt into our playhouse. Brian, Josh, and Nick started at the beginning of the line, hoarding the cans, and then unleashing them for all of us down the line to jump around trying to collect them. It was a lot of screaming and fun.
The second half of the day was spent in the meat locker. Although we didn't do much, we had a great time. We had bonded in a way I had never seen. By the end of the shift, we missed the conveyer belt more than the meat freezer, but enjoyed the day of work all the same. It was just fantastic.
On the way back we stopped for the 4th time at Philadelphia Pretzel, the best pretzel place in the world. I had a cheese steak pretzel, which honestly is better than it sounds, and then we went to the stop.
When we arrived home from the work day, we had to cook. Our family, being the best in the world, decided to make a 5 star dinner. We had to cook left overs, but with the help of Head Chef Brian and Chief Architect/Floor Planner Tim (plus the whole fam!) we were able to make the best dinner ever.
Once dinner ended, we had to clean, which sounds a lot easier than it was. Reagan, Ally and I all walked in, and were greeted with hoses that sprayed us, and turned into a 30 minute water fight between everyone in the family. Im not sure who shot first, either Josh, Jamie or Sean, but the second they shot, it felt like the longest water fight ever. The floors were soaked, our clothes poured rain, and we couldn't stop laughing. It was awesome. Although we eventually cleaned, we had the best water fight in a kitchen ever.
The day was awesome. I couldn't ask for a better family for the week. We have bonded so much over the week, and now with the week wrapping up, Im sad that its ending. We still have two solid days, so our family will do even more things.