Thrive DC is a very special program that provides for the needs of the homeless in Washington, DC. It operates in the basement of St. Stephens Church on 16th Street, NW and offers food, laundry services, showers and a number of training programs for its clients.
I volunteer weekly at the program and one of my jobs is to take the names of the guests as they arrive for breakfast in the morning. I love this job because it allows me to get to know the guests and to learn their names. Many are regulars and I derive great satisfaction when I can greet them by name and even have a brief conversation as they check in.
A couple of weeks ago, there was an incident that was so touching, I wanted to share it here. On this day, most of the guests had arrived and the dining room was pretty full. As usual, there was a lot of conversation and laughter. I was having a conversation with Brian, a staff member, and William Taft, another volunteer. William is a handsome man who has a radio voice, dreadlocks and a winning smile. Years ago, William was a client of Thrive and, in appreciation, he returns to the breakfast program almost every day to provide emotional and spiritual support for the guests. William thrives on intellectual discourse and, when he’s not encouraging clients and staff, he is engaged in deep philosophical discussions.
We were probably talking about the meaning of life when a woman came in who was clearly in pain, not physical pain, but emotional pain. Her face was wracked. She was so stressed she couldn’t speak. I asked her for her name, but she didn’t – or couldn’t – respond. She just stood there looking like she was carrying all the anxiety in the world on her shoulders.
William asked her if she was alright. No answer. Just pain in her face. He asked her again. Nothing. Then he said, “You need a hug,” and walked over and wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close to him. She leaned into him and put her face on his chest. They held that pose for a long time. Her face softened a bit. After a while, they separated and William kissed her on the cheek, saying, “You need to pray, dear, just pray, and you’ll be fine.” She proceeded to her table, seemingly somewhat relieved, and William departed.
The incident illustrated what, for me, the best thing about Thrive DC. There is a spirit of community that surrounds the organization. The direct services provided are necessary for the body, but the community serves the soul. Who’s to say which is the more valuable? Both are necessary and both can be found at Thrive DC.
Dear Danny & Bridget,
It’s now two days from the election of Donald Trump as our next president. As I’ve said to you, the
magnitude of this event makes it hard to keep all the negative consequences in your head at the same time. I keep thinking of new ones that I hadn’t considered or forgotten about. Most of them are things over which we have no individual control. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change…”
But one thing we can control is how we remember this campaign, particularly the last few days. As you know, I am always proud of you. But my pride was literally bursting as I heard of the things you were doing to support the election of the first woman president. Danny in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Bridget in Pennsylvania. Me in Cleveland and
Mom holding the fort in DC, anxiously watching us all from home. I was moved to tears more than once. I loved the fact that we all stayed in such close touch, even in our various locations. It was truly a family affair.
You both threw yourselves, heart and soul, into this election. From the day I heard that Mom was pregnant with Danny, I have always said that my fondest hope is to have children with passion. Of
course I was hoping that your passion would be consistent with mine, but that wasn’t a prerequisite.
And boy did I get my wish. You both are passionate and showed it in this campaign. Danny, your 3,000 miles logged with Rep. Joe Kennedy will be something you remember your whole life. And, Bridget, your enthusiasm for canvassing is one of the things that brought me to tears. Frankly, I hate canvassing, but I do it because we have to. Fortunately, I moved up to “management” on this campaign and only had to dispatch canvassers, not canvas myself. That was nice. And I loved hearing about your volunteer gig at the Bruce Springsteen concert, including getting on the news as a result of your Hillary socks.
What I want you both to promise me is that you will compartmentalize this experience. A bad outcome on a campaign can taint the whole experience. Don’t let that happen. I’m not just preaching to you. I’m preaching to myself, as well. Let’s all draw a bright line between the campaign and the election. And lets remember this experience with the fondness it deserves.
You are both extraordinary people and you showed in your “passion” the big-hearted values that were the engine of the Hillary Clinton campaign. No outcome can change that fact.
Yes, she lost and it was devastating. I honestly don’t have any words of comfort on that point. Our friend Luke said it was like a sudden death in the family. The only way through that experience is time, the time to absorb it until it becomes part of the new reality. We’re all going to have to go through that process in our own way.
America is heading into a rough patch politically. But we’ll get through it. I would just ask you to keep the values you fought for in the campaign. And keep that passion. I love you both more that I can express.
Things were going very smoothly, albeit somewhat slowly. There were four magnetometers and many thousands of people waiting to get in. Some had waited since 3 pm and it was now about 6:30 pm. I was dutifully overcoming my unconscious bias and giving out stickers to everyone that walked by me.
A commotion erupted at the left-most magnetometer. A man who seemed very intoxicated got into a dispute with the police and the secret service. It went on for a while before he was shuffled away.
As if this little dustup were a dramatic foreshadowing, a real crisis erupted. Suddenly a very large crowd of people waving “preferred” tickets arrived from around the other side of the building. They seemed disgruntled and were demanding to be let into the venue. Nobody at our station knew what was going on or where they were coming from. It turns out there was a suspicious package at the VIP/preferred entrance. The secret service closed the gate and sent them to us. Maybe somebody was informed, but my team was surprised. I called the overall leader to let him know and he told me about the package.
The people patiently standing at our gate were understandably reluctant to give up their places to this new folks, irrespective of their “preferred” status. I’m told that some senior Clinton staffer lifted the gate to allow the preferred people in front of the regular folks and all Hell broke loose. The crowd surged into the security stations and the Secret Service declared a safety hazard and shut down our gate, as well. The crowd erupted. For the next 40 minutes various police and regular people tried to get the crowd to back up to no avail.
Jan Roller, my host in Cleveland, and her sister stood up on some concrete barriers and shouted for the crowd to step back. “Go back!! Go back!!” they bellowed. It was pretty scary. This video doesn’t really convey the crisis situation, but gives an idea.
Somehow, very gradually, some space was established in front of the magnetometers, enough to begin screening people through again. After about half an hour of screening people, some order was restored. It was pretty amazing that the mood of the crowd became more festive. It was during this period that the guy said I looked like Bernie Sanders.
Ast a kind of epilogue, we went for Chinese food after the concert. I walked behind Jan, Joy and a couple of their friends as we entered the restaurant at about 11:3o pm. As we were being seated, a couple in the booth next to us asked how we liked the concert. Jan asked how they knew we were there. The guy said, “You were the lady shouting, ‘Get back! Get back!”
Cleveland is a small town.
My job providing replenishment tickets to other team members converting Clinton tickets into venue tickets did not require much work at all. They all had plenty of tickets. So, I wondered aimlessly watching the people come through security.
I discovered a large roll of Hillary stickers and decided to distribute them to the incoming Jay-Z fans. It was an interesting social experiment for me. As might be expected, most of the attendees were African American rap fans. Distributing stickers meant going up to people and offering them a sticker. Some would simply take the sticker, some would lean their shoulders toward me for me to apply. It was fun interacting with people.
However, I found myself more willing to approach the women with a sticker than the men. Some of the guys frankly looked scary to me. Leather jackets, torn jeans, lots of bling and sunglasses. I realized that my reluctance to approach the men was a clear sign of my unconscious bias. Most of them had been waiting for 2 hours before they got through security and their expressions were serious, if not grim. But I forced myself to approach whoever came through security, including the scary guys. In literally every case, the man’s face would soften into a smile when I offered the sticker. They immediately went from looking scary to looking benign, if not downright friendly. No matter how many times this happened, I retained my reluctance to approach many of these guys. That unconscious bias is very deeply ingrained.
There was, however, one very mean comment that cut me deeply. I relieved one of the team members and waded into the crowd to do distribute tickets. One guy in the crowd yelled, “Hey, look, Bernie Sanders is here.” Ouch. I reminded him that I had the tickets and he’d better be nice to me. He claimed that somebody else that looked like him made the comment.
You be the judge.
Hey, what a minute…
Waiting for the doors to open, we were able to peak into the auditorium. The concert was at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University. Looks to hold about 12,000 people.
Both Jay-Z and Beyonce rehearsed a bit to an empty arena. Jay-Z was dressed very casually in an untucked flannel shirt and his trademark baseball cap. Beyonce rehearsed separately wearing sexy shorts and a spangly top. She came back a little later for a dress rehearsal wearing a pantsuit, in honor of Hillary. She objected a quote that was projected on the screen behind her. It was Hillary’s quote from earlier in her career about declining to stay home to bake cookies. She said it was an incomplete sentence and lacked context. Sure enough, during the concert, the quote was extended and more clear.
I was assigned to be an usher at the Jay-Z Concert as part of the GOTV program in Cleveland. I took as just another assignment and even told my “boss” that I had no real interest in seeing the concert. Not a big fan of rap. Fortunately, he disregarded my “sacrifice” and I did get to see the concert. It was pretty amazing, but more about that in a later post.
Volunteers gathered at 3:15 pm. Doors were scheduled to open at 5;00 pm, concert begins at 8:00 pm. The first couple of hours consisted of getting trained and mostly milling around. My team was responsible for converting the campaign-issued tickets to official venue tickets with scannable bar codes. We were stationed in front of the security stations and make the exchange. My job was to stand inside the security perimeter and supply the other members with the tickets they needed. So, I floated.
Peter and I strolled the Main Street of Cambridge, Ohio looking for a good beer. Peter is a beer snob, and he often finds someplace that offers IPA beer in every little town we visit. Sure enough, we found Guernsey Kitchen. Peter went into his spiel about what saints we are biking across America to provide affordable housing to families in need. Sometimes people will listen attentively and wait for payment.. Sometimes, they will shower us with effusive praise and allow us to drink for free. This was the latter. Beverly was so impressed, she not only gave us beers for free, she prepared a cheese and sausage plate to accompany our beers. All on the house. Here we are with Beverly.
Editor’s note: I am doing the Fuller cross country bike ride with my friend, Peter Asmuth. He recruited me and did it last year. He is also providing updates to friends and family. He agreed to let me post his dispatches. We pick up Peter’s reports in progress.
One of the axioms of the Fuller Center for Housing is, “living simply, so others can simply live.” Along the way, you do come to realize how little you actually need to be completely content with your situation. So, when nature calls, you look around and make do.
The other day, I was “in the field”, after ignoring the warning about the fire ants that someone casually mentioned. When I got to the showers that evening, my ankles had a dozens of bites, which extended up to, but not past…the leggings; reason #24 to never ride without them. 🙂
Today, was a nice 83 miles with next to no wind. I could tell that the wind might be a real problem in these parts, as there are hundreds of wind turbines dotting the landscape; and they’re all facing the direction that we’re heading, just poised for that thirty mph head wind. Today, they just stood there barely moving, which was fine by me and the folks back in Craig, Colorado operating that coal fired generation plant.
After about 40 miles we crossed the Indiana state line and entered the eastern time zone. The landscape is quite flat and a mixture of corn on one side of the road and soy bean on the other. Every now and again, to break up the pattern, they reverse the corn and soy bean sides, which doesn’t really bring any relief from the monotony.
I came upon a livestock auction house with a bunch of trucks parked in the lot and, although I didn’t think that I needed a cow, I went in to check out the action and talk shop with the boys. The auction wasn’t going to happen for a hour, but a nice fellow gave me the nickel tour of the place and told me how the process works. I learned something, too. Who else knew that cows have horns, just like bulls?
BTW, everyone must have gotten the corn quiz question correct. It’s one ear per stalk, for the reason stated. And you can buy it for $.18 in the store. How does that business model work?
The next two days are going to be pretty tough; 100 plus miles, back to back. Some of you have asked, “How do you do it, Pete?”
Like all successful people have discovered, you break it down into manageable segments. The first 20 miles, you’re not even thinking of the ride; your fresh, fed, and the morning sun is greating the new day. And you get to enjoy it all on your bike. What could be better?
Somewhere along the second twenty miles, you’re 1/3 of the way. And the difference between 1/3 and 1/2 is only 1/6, which is practically nothing. Soon, your 2/3 done and the mental gymnastics start to give way and you realize that it’s hot, you’re tired, and the last quarter is going to take a lot longer than you want. At that point, you put the distances and the time in familiar context. Why, the last 15 miles is just the distance from the Capitol to home or that’s no longer than one song: Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven.’
I’ll let you know how my method holds up, tomorrow.
I completed my day one of the ride, 75 miles. It actually started out well. The weather was cool and overcast. There were a few hills, but not much. I felt empowered.
We passed through some small farming towns and it was very scenic at the beginning. I felt like the bicycle gods were smiling on us.
Over time, however, the sun began to peak through the clouds, the temperature rose and the scenery got pretty one dimensional. Miles and miles of corn on one side of the road and soybeans on the other.
At the 67th mile, I was riding alone and spotted a rare shade tree. I pulled over and sat under the tree. My butt was as sore as could be and my knees were giving out. The last 10 miles were a steady incline and I didn’t think I could take any more of that.
Then I looked at the route on my mobile phone and saw that I was at about the highest point in the ride and the rest was down hill overall. That gave me the boost to go on. And, although there were still a few up and down hills, the ride was easier. I am still sore, though.
Here’s the scenery for about 65 of the 75 miles….
As noted below, the group is staying at the First Christian Church of the Disciples of Christ. I don’t know anything about the denomination, but the area does feel like the Bible Belt. The fact that most stores, including bike shops, are closed on Sunday is a clue.
The community has been extraordinarily welcoming. I went to their service today and it was very nice. A small older crowd and the Pastor knew the names of everyone in the pews, except, of course, us cyclists. A lot of shout outs about members of the community, both good news and bad. A few hymns, prayers, a short sermon.
One of the women who cooked the meals for us sat with us at dinner last night and talked about her family and mentioned her “wife.” Since we’re in the Bible Belt, I assumed I’d heard her wrong. But today, she asked for some help with a bike problem she had at home and mentioned her wife again. My private reaction was an indication of my own prejudice.
Such a sign of the times….in a good way.