A year ago my family gathered to celebrate the life of my grandfather who passed away at 88. My cousin Martha’s wife generously offered to make a giant and delicious lunch for us after the memorial service. If Sara hadn’t made the meal, I think we all would have wandered away from the memorial with red eyes and inexpressible love festering in our overgrown hearts.
Before I knew her food, I knew Sara Miles for her writing. An essay by Sara is guaranteed to bring me to tears, and she is the author of numerous books: non-fiction titles Jesus Freak, Take this Bread, How to Hack a Party Line, the poetry collection, Native Dancer, and she edited Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan. Sara is a witty, generous, honest, down-to-earth, politically active, atheist-turned-Episcopalian lesbian who takes food seriously.
A co-worker at a social services agency once told me not knowing how to cook was an act of feminism. When she said this, I realized I didn’t disagree. But Sara Miles is one of the feminists I most admire. Not only does she cook masterfully, she opened what she calls a food pantry.
When I think of food banks, I think of stale bread, dairy on or past the pull date, stacks of canned and boxed food, which isn’t to say that food banks are not offering invaluable services. But Sara’s food pantry is a place of unbelievable beauty. For one thing, it is filled with fresh produce–cabbages and arugala. Also, it is run by people who were once or could be in the food pantry’s line. Their testimonials are a good reminder of why societies build social welfare programs—partly as an attempt to make up for the damage society causes many of its own members.
A video that shows a day in the life of the Food Pantry may awaken in you a desire to answer an inner calling to do your own unique brand of good for the world. Or it may reinvigorate the good you are already living. I guarantee it will make you feel grateful to live in these strange and mind-boggling days.
So far the jobs I’ve had that I have valued most have both had to do with job training. At the Seattle Vocational Institute I taught classes in reading and writing for students who were trying to pass entrance exams for vocational programs. At YouthCare I coached homeless young adults in job readiness, helping them apply for and retain paid internships and jobs.
In my currently underemployed state, I am in the process of learning graphic design. Thinking back on my students at the Seattle Vocational Institute, YouthCare, and my special needs students in the Bronx and in the Seattle public schools, I see great potential in many of them to learn design. These are the thoughts the four-minute food pantry video elicited in me. What about you?