Saturday, January 31, 2009


I played an exceedingly small role in a wee fundraiser yesterday (and at some point I must look up "fundraiser" on the OED online). My role was to cook a lot of minestrone soup (Marcella Hazan's receipe), which was to be eaten by women tennis players after they played a kind of round-robin tournament, the occasion of which would be used to raise money for Nativity House, a drop-in center in Tacoma that hosts about 200 persons per day.

Although Nativity House is affiliated with a Catholic parish, there's no preaching in connection with the services, and no one cares what the spiritual beliefs of the visitors are. NH plays a key role because homeless persons who sleep in the shelters usually have to be out by 6:00 a.m., and they can't go back until about 6:00 p.m. Meanwhile, they need meals, shelter, and companionship, all of which they get at Nativity House, where they can also pick up some replacement-clothing, make phone calls, pick up mail, look for work, and just hang out, enjoying each other's company. There aren't shower facilities there, but such facilities exist close by, and the NH staff can direct the guests there.

At the fundraiser, I learned that about 30 % of the homeless and the guests at NH house are chronically homeless, due largely to disabilities, addictions, and/or severe mental illness. But 70 per cent are on the streets usually because of a bad break, so to speak (not that mental illness or addiction aren't bad breaks themselves). They lost their job or their apartment. They suffered domesitic abuse. A series of calamaties beyond their control afflicted them. And so on. As one might expect, the "census" at NH and other facilities is way up because of the rotten economy.

The director of NH told an amusing story concerning a plumber who came to fix a leak at NH. The director, in addition to paying the plumber, said, "Thank you." The plumber said, "No, thank you. I was a guest here once. You helped me get back on my feet." The plumber was making 40 bucks a week, had a place to live, and so on. A basic turn-around story, the way it ought to work.

The director also said that NH and agencies like it are in need of men's clothing but tend to get more women's clothing, partly because middle-class women have more clothes to give away, and because they give them away, but also because a woman can wear a man's flannel shirt (for example) but a man can't really wear a woman's silk blouse, chiefly because of the size. So if you're a man with clothes to spare, think about giving them to a place like NH. Places like that need volunteers, too, especially during the week--to help cook a meal or just to hang out, play cards, create some society.


You know what? I might get a chance today
to stay out of someone's way, and stay out of the way
I shall. Sometimes it makes a difference. I might
get a chance to be kind. I can do that. I might be
invited to get angry. I hope to decline unless
anger's a short, quick step to appropriate action.

All over the world, people are saying, thinking,
or hoping, "Help." There's always an opportunity
to help, even on days following days when I didn't help.
Good grief! Another opportunity, and another, even
when you pass up the first or second one. Chances
to assist flow steadily like a creek. At a time and place

of your choosing, just step up and help. I think
I'll try that, too. Maybe we'll run into each other.
Maybe we'll need help, too. Why don't I end this
thing now and go help? I'll see you around.
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