“Love is the Answer”
Dear Friends, Aug. 2020
The Redwood City Catholic Worker continues our work with the very, very poor. As Dorothy Day said, “Love is the answer.” We continue to offer hospitality and food to the poor. Each Friday, we distribute 200 bags of food to 80 families in need. Every week volunteers visit the homeless encampments throughout Redwood City. And 6 days a week we offer breakfast to about 30 homeless men and women in desperate need. In front of our home because of the foot traffic of those in need, the city has installed and maintains a mobile hand washing station and a portable toilet to help control the spread of the virus. To help families stay in their apartments, we have distributed about $90,000 in rent subsidies. All of us at the Catholic Worker are healthy so far, thank God. The following is written by Susan Crane, one of our full-time live-in-workers.
Arundhati Roy, in ‘The pandemic is a portal’ explains that “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.”
In his Leningrad lab, Ivan Pavlov used dogs to study learning and conditioning. The dogs naturally salivated when they were given meat and Pavlov conditioned the dogs to salivate when they heard a bell, which meant that the meat was coming. During the massive flood of 1924, Pavlov’s dogs were totally traumatized; and to Pavlov’s surprise, they completely lost their conditioned responses.
We have all been conditioned to believe certain things about how we need to live. We need capitalism as our economic system and anything that communism or socialism could offer is suspect. It’s normal for 3% of the people to be incredibly rich while a huge percent of us live month to month. It’s normal for health care to be tied to a job, and for insurance companies to make gigantic profits off healthcare. It’s normal for nuclear weapons to exist and threaten the lives of whole countries. It’s normal for some to have plenty of food and for others to pick up the scraps from dump sites. It’s normal to live, knowing that we are destroying the earth, the air, and the water around us. It’s normal, knowing that “Doctors Without Borders” sends medical workers around the world, and the USA sends soldiers and weapons (about 800 bases in other countries). It’s normal to think we have good schools, good health-care and the best legal system in the world, while facts tell us otherwise. If the earth is destroyed by climate change or a nuclear exchange, it will all be legal. It’s normal to know that families are being poisoned by radiation because they live near uranium mining or weapons production sites. It’s even become normal to think of unions as being outdated, even now when more and more people are losing their jobs.
Perhaps the pandemic has given us a chance to be open to other ideas. Last March, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the UN, called for an “immediate global cease fire in all corners of the world.” Could we imagine a world where we cooperate with other nations? Could we imagine that we treat others as our brothers and sisters? Could we imagine not using sanctions and nuclear weapons to constantly threaten our neighbors? Could we imagine a system where workers have agency in their workplace, and can manage the workplace themselves?
The movement and resistance of Black Lives Matter has radically changed our conversations about racism, police violence and funding for entire police departments. What was unimaginable at the beginning of the pandemic, is now part of our national conversation.
Here at the Catholic Worker House, with your help, we continue to help our neighbors and attempt to live as if we live in the beloved community. For the first time in the 40 years of our existence, a couple from our immediate neighborhood spontaneously came to help with our food distribution. Hard times create more cooperation and feelings of mutuality. We try to live as if “Love is the answer.”
Visiting several of the homeless camps in Redwood City each week has been more sobering than I had expected. People are hidden away in the bushes along the tracks and highways, living next to rodents and garbage. We help with underwear, t-shirts, body-wipes and food. It’s not much, but it is a consistent effort to affirm their dignity and humanity. Additionally, so many of you (our supporters) have showered us with snack bags, meals, socks and hygiene kits and other items that we give away including tents, sleeping bags, bikes and rent subsidies. People have stepped up to buy rice and beans, put them into small bags and bring them every Friday for the food distribution. People we have never met are bringing food for the breakfasts and other needed paper items. Teachers have brought books for the children here at the house to read. When people do hopeful things, hope lives.
We know that the food we give out in reality belongs to the people who are hungry. In our often-failed attempts to be kind and help others, we know that God writes straight with crooked lines. We ask forgiveness from the poor. We ask forgiveness from those we work with when our social skills are desperately lacking.
Love, Susan for all of us.
- Food: in any amount. Rice, beans, canned goods (protein), frozen meals etc. Folding carts to carry bags of food—the elderly, especially, need these carts.
- Household needs: hand sanitizer, toilet paper, wipes, black garbage bags, reuseable or paper bags for food distribution, Kleenex, Clorox, lap top computers, bikes etc. If you have a computer that needs cleaning up or repairs, call Alfredo Chorro (650-796-5713).
- The Homeless: sleeping bags, tents, tarps, ropes, bikes, bike locks and lights, bike tools, jackets, sweats, socks, etc. These days we are serving breakfast to 30 + homeless 6 days a week. We need quick frozen meals (tamales, lasagna, hot dogs, etc.)
- Money to help with rent subsidies for the unemployed poor including: day laborers, dishwashers, house cleaners, restaurant employees and others who are not only out of work, but don’t qualify for federal aid, unemployment or disability. We have also been asked to send $25,000 to Pennsylvania for a young, Catholic Worker family to purchase a rectory and a school from their diocese. These days, what you give to us, we will give away.
- Your prayers for Fr. Steve Kelly S.J. who is waiting for sentencing after spending over 2 years in custody for non-violently protesting at a Trident nuclear submarine base in Georgia.
- Your ongoing love and support.