Saturday, August 7, 2021

                                    Skid Row People's Market - Los Angeles

Medicine for the Soul, out of Seoul

August 7, 2021

Los Angeles, California

Lately, the focus has been on healing.  So much trauma is being experienced at both the individual and the collective levels.  The pandemic is the "meta-driver" of the misery we are seeing.  Not far behind, are the effects of climate change and impacts such as wildfires in California, heatwaves in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), and floods in the southwest.  And not far behind the climate effects and worldwide health threats, human-made conflicts over social inequity - which, in turn, translates into lack of affordable housing, barriers to health care, and racial conflict.  And yet, hope and faith and care for fellow human beings surfaces.

Across all of the tragedy and distrust, there are sources of inspiration that keep the energy of hope and faith and humanity pushing through the myriad ways that tempt a person to be discouraged.  

There is a blessing in living in a place like Los Angeles.  Here, we have it all.  Not only is this a place of enormous wealth, it is also a place of deeply disturbing poverty.  With more than 63,000 people who are un-housed, the fact remains that more people migrate to this state than leave.  Southern California, in particular, with warmer weather and more forgiving winters, makes for a sensible destination for those who do not have hopes of finding shelter as the season changes.

Because southern California is also a place where the fact of migration is by land, sea, and air the generations are also present - first, second, third, and fourth generation California residents can be found in every racial and ethnic group.  This makes for a kind of complexity that naturally creates challenges for community organizing directed at increasing societal equity and inclusion.

So what is a person to do?  The answer is always the same:  discover who you are.  And be that human being.  Whether it is musician, athlete, artist, teacher, healer, all are students of life. 

Bearing witness to magic, and miracles is a favorite pastime.  It happens on a daily basis in Los Angeles.  And on Skid Row, where the unhoused gather there is a spot that manifests hope.  The little market that has been there for over two and a half decades provides sustenance - literally and figuratively.  It is a market that is operated by an immigrant family from another part of the world, who traveled to this location in a time when the factors that pushed the need for migration were equally compelling, and as always, the opening to gain a foothold was in a place that others who were already here - ignored.  And the result?  A two-generation business, modest and committed to the community it serves.  This is the language of survival and recognition.  While one is definitely an economic interest, there is recognition that both can survive only if they truly see each other - as human beings.  The Skid Row People's Market that sits on 5th and San Pedro is a tiny island of shared story-telling, mutual support, and common interests.  Its second generation owner, along with other family members and locally hired staff, are facing one of the hardest realities of the city:  homelessness.  And in that reality, they are making a difference.  That difference may not make the headlines of any national news media or social media - but it is real.  

Like so many things that are not raised up for all to see - the fact of this place is a clear example of magic and miracles.  For two generations, through fires, unrest, violence, neglect - spirit keeps moving and revealing the fact that heart matters.  Food is medicine.  And that medicine feeds not just the body, but the soul.  It is not a coincidence -- that the English words, soul and Seoul sound the same -- and that is yet another example of how deeply we are all connected.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Focus: Migration

 April 13, 2021

Los Angeles, California

2018 campaign led by DACA and Undocu youth

The people are referred to as "migrants" and the phenomenon is "migration."  Where can people go when the political, social, economic, and environmental conditions begin to crumble?

A deep lesson arises out of a compassionate and loving heart:  be open, stay open;  be kind, stay kind.  A pastor in a poor canyon, a young person seeking to be educated, a parent searching for safety for children.  These are the beings who animate the phenomenon of migration, in all its complexity.  

And, we are living in a time when complexity challenges human societies.  Two years ago, the Journey to Justice bike ride invited undocumented and DACA-mented to ride the stretch of the west coast of this continent on bicycles.  They wanted to see for themselves:  Who is America and are we really not wanted?  What am I made of and how far will I go - literally and figuratively?  Is there hope for humanity?  The ride was the concrete example of great courage, determination, and faith -- all of which are needed in order to bring about great change.

The inspiration to serve, and the intention to be of service has no pre-requisites, other than to realize one's humanity.  The generosity of spirit, once felt, opens the way.  To do the work or support a way for healthy migration to take place is the call.  And the need to engage is great because this phenomenon will not end soon.

Our earth is very clearly telling humanity to wake up to the fact that she is running a fever.  Alaska's recent revelation that the Muldrow Glacier has moved 100 times faster than normal in what is called a "surge" event, along with known phenomenon of rising waters, acidification of the ocean, extreme weather events globally, and more - has caused younger generation activists to organize and connect our behaviors to the risks of losing our being.

Societies across the globe have given voice to leaders who do not seem to recognize the urgency of finding ways to engage in dipolomacy rather than derision.  The dominance of global corporate interests long ago eclipsed to drive for globat citizenship interestss.  The structures built to serve a global infastructure do not accommodate the imagination of a world in which caring for the well-being of humanity can be considered.  

The anti-dote to the threats require what the pastors, the young riders who journeyed for justice, and their supporters are saying, "We are all connected in a way that is beyond language, nationality, religion, and so much more than what divides humanity in today's world."  

The solutions are calling on all leaders to exercise a quality that is anti-thetical to politics and that is realizing that we must return to, and appreciate the power of"humility.".  

Migration (and all the suffering that happens when conditions become untenable at home) is the concrete illustration of what happens when we fail in our humility.  

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Gift of Compassion and the Migration Support Project

March 25, 2021 in Los Angeles

A family that has travelled far, from Honduras to Mexico to California - in search of security and safety from violence:  a mother and her boys reach Los Angeles at last.  They await the asylum hearing that was initially sought some 18 months ago.

The world of human migration has changed so much since the phenomenon was first identified as part of the factors changing the health of the entire planet.  While climate change has created concerns about the destruction of the natural world in which we live;  human decisions have created another kind of destruction.  That is, the loss of "home" due to threats of violence and the taking of human lives - even of children, in some parts of our planet.  The migration of human beings is being driven out of necessity, not just a desire for what has historically been referred to as "a pursuit of the American dream.".

The Migrant Support Project began as a piece of work to sustain a small church in a very poor valley known as Scorpion Canyon.  And it has become the temporary home of 200-300 refugees seeking respite from terrorism, drought, starvation from places like Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico.  Children are born there;  and families are separated as some decide to explore at least one person making it to safety with a plan to bring others while some give up and make different plans.

Gift of Compassion moved to compassion in action in 2019, building a way to support one pastor whose heart is infinitely open and trusting that those who arrive at his sanctuary can be cared for and given hope.  Today, the ask is to join the Gift of Compassion, and to share your generosity of spirit with people who are wanting to be contributing and productive members of a society that is changing here, and across the globe.  There is hope, no matter what else may be happening in our world today.  You can see it in the faces of those who persist, and insist that humanity still finds a way.