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Food Not Bombs

A rare breed indeed. From pants stitched entirely out of patches, to backgrounds bearing expansive travel, the random assortment of folks who volunteer at Food Not Bombs are one of a kind. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Food Not Bombs, it is a coalition of people who have formed chapters all over the world to provide food to the homeless and needy. Depending on the chapter, the food is sourced from either farmer’s markets, local grocery stores, farms, or local community gardens. We have volunteered at one of the eight Los Angeles Foot Not Bombs for nearly 2 months.

The specific chapter, to which we traveled weekly, has thrived for over 13 years. Faces became familiar while the food remained fantastic. We arrived between 3:30 and 4:30 every Sunday to help chop the vegetables for the stew. Having cooked veggie-stew in the past (because of my father’s healthy obsession), I was privy to the fact that potatoes, and other hard vegetables, needed to be thrown in first, in order for them to soften.

Once the potatoes, squash, turnips, and beets were minced and dumped into the stew, it was on to the crying party! Onions galore. We cut these as quickly and as safely as possible. Then on to the red, yellow, green, and purple bell peppers; cucumber, zucchini, and green beens. Next we cut lettuce, tomatoes, plums, peaches, and strawberries for the salad. Each week was always a surprise of vegetables and fruits, which made cutting a continuous learning process. FNB Cuttin Strawberries

Meditation can be seen by some as a specific way to put your mind at ease, but it encompasses much more. As our muscles focused on dicing and chopping, our minds were carried away in the discussion of life, passions, personal pet peeves, and questions that would challenge each other’s beliefs. Mind you, there were new people each week, but it seemed as though the atmosphere was a constant.

Once everything was cooked, we loaded up and would drive to Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles. By the time we reached the square, there was already a line of at least 70 people while more would trickle in as we continued to set up. We each found a job that needed to be done whether it was handing out forks and napkins, serving rice, beans, stew, or salad, or just mingling with the regulars. There was always something to be done.

Passing Out Food

It was different at Food Not Bombs. We also ate the food that we served. We are all equal. I dig. Oh and the food was delicious.

Yea, there were the occasional crazy people. They need to eat too. There were also the intellectuals who you may never have guessed lived on the streets. I would sit and listen to them and their stories. About wars once fought, jobs once conquered, families once loved. Every time I sat and opened my ears, they would soon be filled with ideas that made me recognize my own privilege and respect for life. I have a constant question that I ask people, because it’s what I do: What was the best part of your day?

More frequent than not, the response I received from those at Pershing Square was, “When I woke up this morning.”

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Find out how you can get involved with Food Not Bombs at www.foodnotbombs.net

 


Jumpstart

Thud thud.

Thud thud.

Thud thud.

There is a set of winding bridges in Norway that island-hop from town to town on the Norwegian Sea. Luscious green mounds of ocean toppers that protrude from the healthy blue sea. The sky forms itself in the waves that caress the edges of the islands making itself known to those who stare into it.

Your friend pulls the car over at the next restaurant. The gravel under the tires crunch as the car glides into a spot. You hold the restaurant’s door open as your friends thank you and walk in to the lively atmosphere. As you sit, a waitress brings menus and silverware to the table. She hands everything to you, smiles, then returns back to the bar. There’s a sound. It’s a scratching sound. Everyone is doing it. You are all scratching your heads looking disheveledly at the letters that seem to make up words on the menus. Norwegian words look similar to english, but don’t make complete sense.

You wake up and realize that your dreams have been feeling more and more real recently. You sit up and your stomach churns. It’s been a little while since you had some food. 6:00 AM is early enough for a visit to the diner down the street. Your parents are still asleep, but if they were up, it’s not like they would go with you anyways. The sun is barely surfacing over the mountains in the distance as you tilt your hat lower. School started last week, but there hasn’t been much joy there yet.

Thud thud.

Thud thud.

Thud thud.

Your skateboard clicks over the sidewalk toward the diner. The sun blinks at you through the tree branches in time to the whistles of the morning larks. You smile and slow to a stop outside the diner. An older gentleman approaches leaning on a cane with a tennis ball on the bottom. You hold the door for him as you pop your skateboard up on your shoe. He nods and creases his cheeks as the smile from behind his weathered lips appear.

“Thank you.”

You file in after him and sit at a table by yourself in the corner – skateboard sliding back and forth underneath your feet. The waitress is new this morning and she brings you a menu asking if you would like orange juice. You smile and nod at her as you unfold the menu. The letters that are so neatly arranged behind the plastic vale looking back at you tell a story of your potential full stomach. However, you do not understand what any of them mean.

De ja vu. It’s an instant translation back to your dream. Instead of Norway, it is your local diner. Instead of Norwegian, it is English. Shouldn’t you know how to read a language so prevalent in your society? You are almost in fifth grade. What happened?

The waitress returns and you tell her to surprise you with something under five dollars. It is delicious.

School comes and lingers like the clouds outside that are ready to unleash their loads of water on the gardens below. The bell rings and you sling your bag over your shoulder. Your skateboard resides in your other arm, steering you through the sea of students. The few remaining rays of sunshine beckon you toward the double door exit and a bright red shirt confronts you as you breach the grass outside. It squats down to your level and then a face becomes visible. She smiles and tells you her name is Leah.

She notices you staring at the stitched logo of the company that she represents and tells you it reads Jumpstart.

“We are here to work toward the day every child in America enters school prepared to succeed.” And then points at your chest as she winks. 

“I would love to help you learn how to read.”

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If this piece helps you feel grateful for your ability to read or if you’re grateful for the services that Jumpstart provides, share this post with someone who you believe is already helping or is willing to help with this initiative.

To find out more about Jumpstart and how you can help, visit: www.jstart.org.

To view the bridges in Norway click here.