The Goal is Equality

This past Sunday, I gave the sermon at my church. Here it is.  (Also, the audio version for those of you who miss my voice so much.)

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”
2 Cor. 8:13-15

Here in the final months of my year as a Young Adult Volunteer serving both at Church of the Covenant and at Women’s Lunch Place, I find myself looking back quite a bit. Getting nostalgic for something that isn’t even over just yet. I love my job, and I have to hand it over pretty soon. So indulge me in a quick memory montage as I recall the highlights this year.

This year marked my first time to the Northeast, the choir of cars honking has become a sweet melody in my dreams.

I have been to Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, ventured down to Florida, and will soon head to Detroit all in the name of Food Justice work. Work that I love.

I lived on a mostly local food only diet, and canning and applesauce making became a normative activity after dinner.

I learned 32 different ways to prepare kale.

I became a gardener when I learned that all it took was the act of planting something in the ground and willing it to grow.

I swam with a manatee.

After life-long denial, I learned that I actually love apples.

I taught a nutrition class to the fine ladies downstairs.

I became one of those people who quote Wendell Berry.

I started receiving SNAP benefits (aka Food Stamps).

I wrote prayers and liturgy for the first time being able to really reconcile my love of words, God, and this earth.

I was supported and accepted into this lovely community with wide open arms.

And in Boston, I have finally found a place that I want to stay.

You see, I am an excellent wanderer, and I have struggled with the idea of “home” for a long time. Though I grew up wonderfully in Kansas with a family that taught me how to laugh, I longed for bigger places.

Denver was amazing for college and I realized just how small you feel when standing on the top of a mountain, Russia taught me to love another culture and the joy of black tea, and China, well, China gave me plenty of hard lessons,but none of these places really felt like I was meant to stay there.

They weren’t home.

I was delightfully passing through, gaining experiences, and funny stories, until the next place on my list.

It’s really easy for me to have wandering soul because I am horribly uncomfortable with the idea of stuff. Things that pile up and clutter stress me out, and I am always trying to figure out if I can get through life with one less thing.  I also quite enjoy the fact that I can pack up my two suitcases in 45 minutes and be out of here. Onto my next place.

Two weeks ago I was in Florida as an Eco Steward, and part of the week is learning to tell your Eco faith Journey. Where you recognize how your faith and the environment over lap. I was quite ready to talk about food and my work in food justice, hello look at my life. It is a walking ode to organic sustainable farming and food access.

But instead, the idea of “enough” kept coming up. So I talked about stuff. How it makes me uncomfortable. How I don’t have a lot, how stuff weighs you down, holds you back, makes you feel like you deserve something that has been a gift all along.   I have enough, so why should I have more when it is just heavier to carry. Why should I have more when there are so many with so little? Why should I take up more space, use more, buy more, eat more, throw away more? So I have made myself smaller, my presence smaller, my impact smaller, and I have viewed my transient life as a life of simplicity. An eco-minded response to the vapid consumerism attributed to my generation, my culture. Because that sounds much better than what it really is.

 

A Fear. A fear of settling. A fear of committing to a place and a people.  A fear of caring for others, and yet not having enough for myself.

At the Good Friday service we had a few months ago, God and I were talking. Most people call that praying. I don’t remember about what, then God decided to show me something.  Bear with me, I know this sounds a little strange. But in my mind, I was walking around giving away pieces of my heart, and it hurt, giving it all away bit by bit. It got smaller, and I got sadder. There wasn’t enough left for me. What was I to do with half a heart, broken and torn apart? I started giving it away slower and slower, until I looked up, and there was God giving me a piece of his heart. I looked around and there he was giving everyone a piece, over and over again. We thought we were running out, giving it all away, leaving nothing for ourselves, but the more of our hearts we gave, the more God gave to us. And there was plenty.

I have plenty. And it isn’t weighing me down. It makes me want to stay, dig my roots in, and take care of those around me. I am not done here. I am sticking around, and I have come to realize that right now, “home” is where I am serving, living life with people. I have plenty, and it is time give out of that plenty.

In the Corinthians text, it says “the goal is equality.” It makes an allusion to the Manna falling to the ground for the Israelites who wandered in the desert.  “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” Everyone had the same. We, here and now, are not there yet.

We know this with every stroke of injustice we sense. I know this because people are still hungry. In the richest, most extrvagant country in the world, where we throw away 40% of our food, people are still hungry, and we try to do something about it. Here at our church, we have a food pantry that provides food on the weekends. At WLP, we provide breakfast and lunch to any woman who walks in the door. In MA, there are hundreds of food pantries, meals programs, and people just walking around handing out sandwiches. And yet, we know that they are still hungry.

The goal is equality. Everyone at the same level, at the same table. And we are not there yet.

We know this because the people picking our tomatoes off the vines aren’t given a livable wage. Can’t afford the very food they harvest.

We know this because 14% of Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

We know this because most people receiving SNAP benefits use them up by the third week of the month, and don’t have any extra money for food.

We know this because we drain our water onto fields of food destined for feedlots.

We know this because patents on life have become more valuable than lives.

We know this because a fresh vegetable, locally grown has become a privilege.

We know the problems. So we problem solve.

We give more, what we can scrape together from the back of our cupboard. We grow gardens. And we give more. We glean, we protest, we advocate and give and give and give.

But are we also giving away pieces of our hearts? Not just practically combating an injustice, but compassionately engaging with a place and a people.  Truly hearing the voices of the forgotten oppressed, ignored, and hungry, and possessing a willingness to participate in the act of giving our hearts.  God’s heart.

Because when you are giving out of your plenty and into someone’s lacking you know them, you love them, and at some point those who were lacking now have plenty to give to you.

We know we will not be depleted. We know there is enough. So we give.

The goal is equality.

We are not there yet, but in Christ we are. At the communion table we will soon participate in, we have a beautiful glimpse of it. We are all welcome to the meal together, we are all sitting next to each other, and we are all full.

The goal is equality. Oh what a beautiful day when this is true.

Image A picture of the day. Me with the pastor, coworkers, and fellow YAVs

Some Experience

I don’t want to talk to you about food. I am sure you don’t want to read about food.

We are in the “what are you doing next?” part of the year, full of confusion, overwhelming job searches, and resume writing.

I don’t know what I want next, (just like I didn’t know this time last year), but I am trying to stay in Boston.

However, I find my current resume a little dull, and not quite representative of my experiences thus far. So if I could, and someone would let me get away with it, here is the the resume I would provide.

Audrey (NOT Aubrey) Susanne Holt
From Kansas, and I beg you not to make that Wizard of Oz joke. And no, it is not in the South. But really, it’s in the middle. Do I need to bring you a map?

Education
A small school you have never heard of. I did well.
BA in English, not teaching, and creative writing.
What’s that? Yes, I really do want to make some money. You know, for food.

Experience

Some, but not as much as you prefer, and probably not doing what you are looking for. But here I am anyway!

Skills and Abilities

Quote and Song Identifying- college finals, road trip games
Can identify origins of important quotes and concepts integral to an American education and all of the words to Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight”.

Second Counting- 2006-2012
Can count to exactly thirty seconds in my head because of years as a barista pulling espresso shots. Added bonus, I can touch really hot things right out of the oven.

Endurance Reader- upon the release of all Harry Potter Books
Can read for hours without moving or eating, with intense focus, and it has instilled a firm belief in the existence of unicorns.

Writing upside down, backwards, and legibly- middle school
Can pen a note in such a fashion in no time at all. Perfect for sly note writing to your bff sitting across your lab table in science class.

Bend Right Pinkie Backwards- gross out moments, boredom curing.
Can bend right pinkie to touch the back of my right hand. Such a talent made my sixth grade geography teacher nauseous, and she asked me to leave the classroom. Thanks goodness.  She was quite dull.

References

My Dad-He has to like me. At least I hope he does.

Ms Manhart-Fifth grade teacher. Told me I had an “old soul”, and I didn’t know what that meant.

Lorelai Gilmore-She truly understands my heart. I can neither confirm or deny that she is a fictional character from a cancelled television show. She gets me.

Bonus Picture: me and my super cool roommates (and shades) enjoying the M1795515_10152231892145677_2667378615880181341_narathon in Boston.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How could you not hire this girl?

Thanks for reading,

Schmaud

Walk For Hunger

(Just an update on what I am up to in the coming weeks.)

So we all know that I am in Boston, MA.

We all know that it’s a great city with winters that are truly terrible (and apparently endless grumblesnowinAprilgrumble), it is home to all of the oldest things in America (university, houses, pubs, rocks etc), it has a particularly showy Fall (we get it leaves), its is full of some of the best people I have ever met (because Boston), and SPORTS (go Sox).

But, there are still people who are hungry. We haven’t solved food insecurity just yet. Though Project Bread is doing a pretty great job. They help fund tons of the food related organizations in Massachusetts, and I happen to work for a few. I couldn’t do my job very well if Project Bread didn’t exist.

On May 4th, it is the annual Walk for Hunger. It is a 20 mile walk about the city of Boston with 40,000+ people raising money for Project Bread. And this year I am walking too. If you want to support me, my team from my church (a group that has been doing this for only 30 years), or find out more about all this go here.

Other things I am up to:

Maundy Thursday Silent Meal with my church. (see previous post)

This Good Friday I am doing this walk.

Planting and seeding at Fenway Victory Gardens (oldest in ‘Murica), because they fabulously donate that produce to Women’s Lunch Place.

Attending a Revolutionary War re-enactment in Lexington MA (the Birthplace of American Liberty), on Patriots Day (April 21). And watching the Marathon.

Lots o’ stuff going on,

Thanks for reading,

Schmaud

 

 

 

Silent Meal

(This is part one of two about my time at St. Joseph’s Abbey)

 

Silent Meal    

I recently spent a week on retreat at a Trappist monastery in Spencer, MA.  A few months ago we went to a non-violent, peacekeeping catholic community over in Ware, MA.  In September, we hung out with organic farmers in Maine.

As a part of the Young Adult Volunteer Program, we go to these other places not only to relax and regroup, but also to learn from these communities.  How to live in community, how to make decisions together, how to not tear you hair out while living in community and trying to make decisions together.  The simple things. 

This past week we learned the art of Silence.

There were no TVs, phones, computers, or phones that pretend to be computers.

The monks fill their day with work and prayer, and seven times a day they stop what they are doing to pray and praise God. We filled our days with books, writing, walking, naps, and prayer, and joined the monks for five of the services.

Bells interrupted my day constantly. They signaled it was time to go pray, sing some Psalms, reflect, and oh yeah, pray.  I found myself agitated in the beginning of the week. I couldn’t get into the slow rhythm of monastic life, but I figured by day three that that was the point. To be interrupted, to take time to thank God, a lot.

The easiest and strangest part was the silent meals.  Being in a program revolving around food, my housemates can talk at meals. We can chatter on about how baby greens are grown, how to make banana bread healthy, the most ethical source for green tea, and on and on. It’s informative, funny, filled with stories, and it’s exhausting.

And so, for a week, I sat at a table with my dear friends and ate silently. I could hear the crunch of my housemates’ cereal, the ding of the spoons against the bowls, the sip and slurp of early morning coffee drinking. I observed the strange sideways movement of people’s jaws as they chew, and I studied the distinct coloration of my plate.

It was a calming interruption to my normal routine, and somewhat counter intuitive to be around people but not engage with them. My brain had enough rumbling around in it already, and those meals surrounded by people each in our own heads, allowed for some sorting. I am not saying that I figured it all out, but I was allowed the space and time to try.  

I am an obsessive over thinker, anxiously playing things over in my head, trying to put the pieces together better and explain everything, and being silent next to someone was very different than my usual contemplations. 

It felt supportive, it felt calm, it felt sacred. 

Each person simultaneously participating in one of the simplest, most basic human activities, while also mulling over the complexities of being human.

So take some time, grab a snack, surround yourself with people you really like, and just don’t talk to them. Try it out. See what you learn.

 

 

 

 

Local Schmocal

Today, I ate a tomato.

There are 12 inches of snow on the ground, it has been below freezing for a while, and I had the wonderful joy of eating a tomato on my sandwich.

An avocado showed up too, and baby spinach.

And, the best part, red pepper slices.

It was so good.

This is only a big deal because I have been eating a local only diet for the past six months, and I live in Massachusetts.

Things like tomatoes, avocados, and spinach do not grow in MA in the winter. Because nothing grows in MA in the winter. (Besides the snow drifts, that is).

But earlier this week, the local eating portion of our program (The Boston Food Justice Young Adult Program LINK) ended.

I feel free. I can eat an orange, I can eat a banana, I can eat some Wheat Thins with marshmallows and Welch’s grape jelly. (insert stomach ache) I won’t, probs, but I can!

I am in a frenzy of options. There is so much food, and I want to eat it all.

If I were in a musical, there would definitely be a scene in which I run through the aisles of a grocery store throwing candy everywhere.

This is not to ignore all I have learned in being a locavore, but a time to participate in the food system in a different way. That participation is choice.

I sat down with my housemates to evaluate how we would change our buying and eating habits now that we are no longer constrained to the New England soil. Poptarts and ketchup were enthusiastically mentioned.

Then our joy about all the food went downhill pretty quickly. Because we realized that though we have to freedom to choose whatever the heck we want,  we don’t want most of those foods.

We still want to know what it is our food, where it came from, and how it was grown.

We decided to keep up with the farmer’s markets and our CSA, we opted for the local butter, milk, and egg options, and grocery stores would be our last resort.

Wait, what? But what about all the candy?

As we talked about how we wanted to eat, it became our choice to stick with “as real food as possible”.

This is our new rule.

And maybe some candy when the mood strikes.

Snow Day Docs, yo

Hey all, 

Whew, it has been a while. 

I went home to KS, then I forgot I had a blog (that always seems to happen in Jan), and then it snowed and snowed and snowed.

In fact, today am experiencing quite a relaxing snow day, and seeing that the rest of the country seems to be doing just the same thing, I thought I would let you in on a little Boston YAV secret. We watch a lot of documentaries.

What better thing to do on a Snow Day than watch some neat documentaries?

So I thought I would recommend a few to you. 

Gather round your viewing device with a cup ‘o cocoa and a giant blanket, watch adorable children sing Let It Go, then view some informative docs in your free time. 

If you want to feel inspired.

A Place at the Table- a nice introduction to hunger in America with Jeff Bridges and the Civil Wars.

Girl Rising-Girls’ education and why it will fix the world

No Impact Man- Oldie but a goodie, “Who lives without electricity? That’s dumb.”

King Corn-you are made of corn. No really

Truck Farm- (by the same folks of King Corn) urban gardening and singing. 

Dive!-Food waste meets dumpster diving. 

If you want to be enraged

Food Inc., Vanishing of the Bees, Save the Farm

Happy viewing!Image

Living Simply?

So, there was a time back in July when I had just gotten back from China, I was home alone, and I also happened to be very sick. 

I woke up from a Benadryl induced coma to find the television still on and a fine program entitled Extreme Cheapskates playing dully in the background. 

The premise of the show is that people are too cheap to pay for pretty much anything, so they…don’t. One gentleman reused tissues, another didn’t repair anything in his house, and one woman used a lantern instead of turning on the lights. And none of them bought toilet paper. All were very proud of the fact that they spent very little on their monthly expenses.

My question upon viewing this quality television: what’s the point?

I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about this because I was way more interested in sleeping, but then I moved to Boston and have been thinking about this type of stuff a lot. 

A part of the program is “Living Simply” and we are currently trying to figure out what that means for our lives here. 

And sometimes when I am explaining what we do and how we live, I feel like the people on the show. We do weird, somewhat ridiculous stuff too, and sometimes when I look at the thermostat (set at 60) or wash a Ziplock bag for the ninth time, I think “What’s the point?”

I have a series of questions I ask myself quite a bit, because sometimes I have to stop and make sure that it is all worth it. 

1.Are we living simply or just cheaply?
2. Is there a difference? 
3.What is the difference?  
4.Do I care? 
5.Do other people care? 

And then I had a wonderful conversation with my roommates and we figured it out together. Well, as much as we could. We discussed our strangeness, why we like/dislike what we do, how our time is spent differently, and mostly we learned that trying to live a life towards simplicity had helped us live more for each other. (How sweet, I know.) 

So we will continue our weird lives with our cold house because we drink hot tea together, have inspiring conversations (while sitting under plenty of warm blankets), and find comfort in the things outside of things. 

Image 

With love, the Boston YAVs, 

thanks for reading, 

Schmaud

 

 

 

 

 

April the Goat

Me and the goat

This is April. She is a goat. We became friends. Though, just long enough for this picture.

It will make sense in a second.

It’s Christmas time. I can tell because bows have found themselves on every possible surface, and people are suddenly very excited about giving back.

I have a hard time with Christmas. Well, let me rephrase: I have a hard time with Christmas presents. (Christmas is great, go baby Jesus.)

Let’s enter into my inner monologue concerning Christmas gifts:

Do I get them a present, and if so, what do I get them? Do I think of a gift or do I just spend time wandering the isles of store until I am inspired or annoyed enough to buy something? How much money do I spend? Will they judge me if I put it in a gift bag because I really hate dealing with wrapping paper? Is one gift enough? Do they like me enough to pretend to like the gift even though they hate it? 

And down it goes.

So, to manage this terrible and stressful spiral of thinking, a few years ago, I tried to stop just giving gifts.

Some people in my life were not the biggest fans of this move. I mean come on, its Christmas.

But I couldn’t keep buying crap because I felt obligated to, and then trying to figure out how it would fit into peoples lives. So I wanted to get things people needed, and we are American and don’t often wait for Christmas for the things we need. We get them ourselves, and then restock our scarf collection during the holidays.

(whew, that’s cheery, I know, but keep with me)

Turns out, though, that a lot of other people outside my context did need things. Like really needed it. Like water, and food, and shelter, and medicine.

So one year I bought my dad some chickens, and they went to someone starting an egg business.

And, this is really cool, my dad liked that gift.

So I kept doing it.

Then, I did this crazy YAV thing, and  we visited one of Heifer International’s farms. That is where I met April the Goat, and I realized that these parts of myself, the part looking for justice, the part so anxious and crazy about gift giving, are joined together in working on something so much bigger than myself. That’s pretty cool.

Thanks for reading,
Schmaud

(P.S. I still think presents are okay. This just me spewing about how I feel, and there are plenty of people who have magical ability to give the perfect thing, and it truly is important. This, however, is not me.)

Seeing the Work

This is a blog I wrote for a Presbyterian site, but I liked it enough to share it here too.

I work as Young Adult Volunteer in Boston, splitting my time between a local church and a daytime drop-in shelter for homeless and poor women. The church is an old and beautiful building from the 1850s, and the shelter is located in the basement.

The shelter doesn’t feel like a basement. It is painted a calming yellow, and there always seem to be fresh flowers around. At noon each day, the ladies sit at their tables, and volunteers serve them lunch complete with an apple. It is a simple interaction, which has created a community that has flourished for thirty years.

Part of my job, beyond working with the meals program as a volunteer focused on Food Justice, is to help strengthen the relationship between the church and the shelter. Because though they have shared a building for decades, the shelter is closed on Sundays while the church worships. The two are grateful for the other, for it is quite the symbiotic relationship, but they just don’t see each other.

They also want this to change.

So I have encouraged church members to see the basement when it is filled with guests instead of just during our coffee hour. See the volunteers, the advocates, the card games, the painting, and the coffee drinking.  See that there are those in need, be it food, housing, money, or feeling alone, and that we working together to change that (for others and for ourselves).

Just come and see. See the work.

Allow yourself to notice that things are broken everywhere. Please don’t turn your head and ignore it because it doesn’t affect you. Just look at it. Take it in.

People are hungry, homeless, oppressed, and ignored.

Read it again.

People are hungry, homeless, oppressed, and ignored.

You have to see it.

Now, be encouraged that you can help put the broken pieces back together.

We try everyday in a basement at a church.

Thanks for reading,

Schmaud

Saving the World

Here’s the deal.

I am learning that this eating local thing, well, a lot of people have done it.

There are books, documentaries, blogs, how-to pamphlets, on the best way to eat food from your neck of the woods.

This is not new territory I have entered here, and thankfully I have had a lot of help. It’s like a great cloud of locavor-ians stepping out in front of me to show me the ways of canning, freezing, and apple sauce making. (No but seriously, never buying apple sauce again.)

The education started with Barbara Kingsolver, of course, and then a series of bloggers turned book writers doing local only challenges, some contemplative pastors (who all profusely quote Wendell Berry), and yesterday No Impact Man was added to the mix.

This documentary came out a while ago, and I distinctly remember a sound bite airing on the news about how upset he was by items that are individually wrapped in plastic. I thought, okay crazy kid, you have fun with that.

Then I became a crazy kid too. Eating local, living simply, biking to the grocery store, obsessively researching better composting practices, reducing trash to one medium bag a week between four people, hauling bulk items of food on public transportation, geeking out over unique vegetables in the CSA, and sorting fifty pounds of potatoes by size for the winter.

Now, I am going to say this, and I really don’t want you to hate me, BUT this doesn’t seem so crazy anymore.

I am three months into this adventure, and I totally drank the Kool-aid.

Because its not about uprooting your life and making yourself totally uncomfortable for the sake of the environment/food system/small farmer/saving the world.  Its doing what you can with what you have where you are, and being aware of the fact that your choices affect the environment/food system/small farmer/saving the world. 

With eating locally, we are trying out the extremes just to see what can actually stick in a life full of the other stuff of living.  

Because though I may be getting tips from Barbara, the kind women at church, books on making everything at home, and youtube videos on freezing chard, I am really learning from them the simple art of living better.

Allowing room for the tiny changes in my life to fill me up with weird joy.

Being so happy at the site of a tomato in November, being thrilled when someone else makes me dinner, being engaged with the rhythms of the seasons, and knowing that eating local for six months is not going to save the world.

Thanks for reading,

Schmaud