on tuesday we went around the streets of berkeley handing out P1124 sweatshirts to the homeless. P1124 is a clothing company founded on the conviction that the best things in life should be given. it was Joy’s brother’s brain child, and his vision is to empower people to give.
before we left, the first thing Joy did was to question her brother’s vision…is P1124 actually true to this vision of radical generosity? is it sincere? does it actually empower people to give?
and my first favorite part of this entire ordeal, was the conversation about “giving” that began here. what is giving? how do we give? there has been a lot of giving movements lately. giving is currently trendy, hip, and young. so as followers of Christ, we had to ask, are we giving because giving is in vogue, or because it is part of a lifestyle which overflows from a heart of thankfulness? do clothing initiatives like this (buy one, give one to someone in need) actually challenge consumers to live differently, or does it just provide a momentary feel-good high? humanitarianism sounds great, but it is still a broken form of generosity and benevolence, a branch of humanism which preaches man as the measure of all things.
in that context, what did it mean for us to go around handing out sweatshirts to the homeless in our community? what is gospel-centered giving supposed to look like? (and maybe the reason for this conversation in the first place was this question: why do we, as we step out into the chilly December air to “benevolently and compassionately hand out sweatshirts to the homeless,” feel self-conscious, semi-fraudulent, and uncomfortable with just leaving it at that?)
we were out on the streets for several hours, approaching, explaining, talking, listening, praying, filming.
we met Patrick who came from Wyoming and didn’t think the weather was so cold. then Cool Whip came around with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. he loudly protested our cameras, but when we offered him a sweatshirt, his face changed, and he opened his suitcase to show us some shirts that he tie-dyed. then he orated a poem that he wrote. it was really good spontaneous spoken word on the corner of telegraph and haste.
then we met some (i’ll be honest, intimidating) younger guys in front of amoeba. they didn’t want any sweatshirts, but they offered us cookies. one of them (can’t remember his name) told us his religion was what he got from going around the world and listening to a lot of everything, mashing it all together, and boiling it down to get rid of all the sh*t. if i wasn’t a christian, i’d probably do it just like that. another guy (i shook his hand, but i can’t remember his name) had stars tattooed on his face.
at people’s park we found out it was mama’s 60th birthday. there was a gathering of friends and a slice of chocolate cake. uncle al told us about how mama has been having kidney trouble, but she won’t let him take her to the hospital. he ordered us to sit down and lay our hands on mama as we prayed for her kidneys. uncle al prayed first, and tears began to stream down his face. “Lord, you gave me the perfect most beautiful helpmeet, please don’t take her away so soon.” Jedediah prayed too, in his incohesive drawl.
we also met peanut who asked for prayer about her anger problems. then she demonstrated her anger management when cool whip walked past and accidentally knocked her sandwich out of her hand onto the ground. she fed it to her dog. lol.
then joy and i met sharin’ peace who asked for us to pray for the harmony in people’s park. fights happen too often, and she pointed out one of the girls who “beat her up recently.” sharin’ peace seemed really welcoming (she reminded me of a first grade teacher) at first, but suddenly became antsy and suspicious until we left.
then cool whip pulled us to the side and shared two more poems that he wrote. one was about christmas and what it has become. another one was his morning prayer. it was really really beautiful.
then as we crossed over to the other side of the park, we met jess who was wearing a small skin-tight black dress and a cool navajo-print jacket. we sat down on the grass, and she told us about a car accident that killed her fiancé, and the copper that she wears to remember him. she told us that after the car accident, his family shunned her. she said it was because they were atheist, and when something so painful and inexplicable happened, they had to blame someone, so they blamed her, the sole survivor. she told us about her back problems, and about the hostel she is doing some work for so she can room there for $12/night. she also told us about her abusive ex-husband, her mormon upbringing, and how all she wanted was to see her fiancé again in the celestial, but she said it like she wasn’t certain that this would happen. joy and i had words to say to her, to encourage her, but they felt so small and stupid as we watched her sad grey eyes.
then we met outer space. he schooled us on the bible and laughed, “you thought you were coming here to give an old bum a sweatshirt, bet you didn’t know you’d have to listen to all this!” and it was great! he was flying all over the old and new testament, stringing everything together with his thoughts and theories, and drilling us: which prophet heard God’s still small voice, and what event does the gospel of mark open with, and what happened in acts, and why did paul have to go to rome? he pulled out his gideon bible, which had a picture of Jesus and a picture of Krishna tucked into its pages. he held up the pictures side by side and demanded, “do these guys hate each other? tell me. do they hate each other?”
my second favorite part about this whole ordeal was summed up in what Joy noted as we were walking back to where we began, “wow, this actually does empower me to give. my brother was right.” and i heartily agreed. having a reason to hand out P1124 sweatshirts allowed us to share our day with the neighbors who live in the streets near our homes. what a privilege it is.. in a smaller way, in a human way, to live out some of the truths of the gospel
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers wants. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.
LOL. i’m prepping for my lesson tomorrow, and i came across this writing prompt. LOL. this really should happen.
"I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights."
it is currently colder in berkeley than in nyc!
text didn’t turn out very well (hoodie & crewneck sweatshirt & long sleeve T & leggings & sweatpants & ankle socks & buffalo socks from Wyoming).
added color, title, and 6 ampersands on photoshop. learning curve is almost too steep. but i’m trying, and i feel like the little engine that could (nearly could not).
hehe this was last minute silly fun condensed into 18 seconds
hopin’ future of forestry includes us in their music video (even though i clipped jason mraz’s winter wonderland to it for now).
burnt green beans, fruit sculptures, christmas music, apologies, and really hearty conversation with art franz. these pictures make me happy.
we were in the car, remember? then you said, success is not the goal it is a biproduct. but you didn’t say biproduct of what. so i thought about it afterwards and i came to a conclusion, it’s a biproduct of honest exploration and making work faithfully and diligently… bam. you got it… wait, how? …she thought it out and came to a conclusion on what it meant for herself.
…in crits we have people assigned to be bad police and good police. i think he doesn’t understand how much that is a real step of progress.
….i realized that, you know what, i would be happy being a fourth grade art teacher for the rest of my life… i don’t want my art to make people feel jealous and isolated. i want it to be relational. i want my art to make people feel cared for, thought of, understood. when people are intimidated by me, i want to talk about how i’m awkward, i burp, and dig through the trash for boxes.
… but what i have with you both, here, is real. and it is good.
to sum up part of the feeling, a quote by hope jahren:
I lost interest in the question, How good do people think I am? I wondered and wondered but I never came up with a satisfying answer. It was like trudging around one of Dante’s circles minus even the companionable presence of other wretched souls. I eventually realized that endlessly interrogating my [artistic] worth was akin to weighing myself three times a day, which I also used to do and which was an equally pointless exercise. When I finally conceded to myself that, well, f* it — maybe I’m not as good as people say I am. Maybe I’m not as good as I should be. Maybe I’m just actually as good as I am – then a more interesting question presented itself: What now? What now.
What now? is probably the most active, productive, and hopeful question.
At 5 it was dreadful to leave my bed to go outside into the very cold very dark morning. But 5.30 as soon as Nina opened the door and handed me a just-out-of-the-toaster crunchy peanut butter sammy, I knew this whole thing was a good idea. Walk, BART, bus, walk up cortland ave, walk up anderson until panting. Then we were at Bernal Hill and there was this anticipation for what was on the other side. i didn’t know it would be the blue city stretched out sleeping. At 7 i turned around and suddenly he sun was rushing up from the horizon. its color was so much like one of my prismacolor markers that i use for illustrations of egg yolk. it was moving. my hands were hurting as i loaded the cameras with film. our hands were hurting badly while trying to take pictures and our phones died shortly after. we stopped at sandbox bakery for directions, hot chocolate, and a yuzu marmalade sage pastry. we walked to holly park and made a lap, smelling grass, watching sunlight peak through trees, talking.
on cortland ave, nina’s bus came. i had some time left so i stopped at martha&bro’s (because i liked that it was decorated to the nines for christmas) and watched the line of early morning locals grow out the door. the man wearing google glass talking loudly, the elderly man by the window reading the paper interested me most. i read bible. the sun was warming cortland ave in a friendly winter morning way.
then i walked down cortland ave and decided not to follow directions, but intuition and feeling. it was good intuition. watched as houses turned into industrial warehouses. sang really loudly while walking. sat on the sidewalk outside the studio sketching while singing loudly. was really happy and thankful.
Extra stuff unrelated to photos, but part of the momentum of a day that started before the sunrise:
9.30 ets-hokin pulled up and i sat down on the best heated seats by butt had ever met. the rest of the day was 3 more photoshoots around the bay, and really interesting conversations during the car rides in between.
then trader joe’s (finally!), call mom to wish her happy 57th birthday, nap, art and good tea and talk with sharoni to end the day. couldn’t be better. (NOOOOO I JUST REALIZED I INCORRECTLY TAUGHT MY 2ND GR STUDENT THE CONTRACTION COULDN’T…I TOLD HIM IT WAS COULD’NT. AS SOON AS I SAID IT I HAD A SMALL BAD FEELING THAT I MIGHT HAVE BEEN WRONG.)
friendship is a form of wealth
Recently, I have been privileged to spend good time with some of my favorite people, and sometimes i feel like the richest person alive. kindred spirits, people who somehow already speak strands of the same language, whose hearts overlap with mine in areas that matter to us the most, and then they surprise me too, they teach me, leave me with something new. i feel like a better person, sandwiched where i am, among these people who are filled with gold, i’m pretty sure.
(and actually, not all them I’ve been with recently. some of them make rare sightings in my life, or pop up as random reoccurring characters. but the same holds true.)
in friendship, as in all things, we are not perfect of course, far from it (on our own we only know to protect and prosper ourselves, breaking things in glaring or subtle ways, we are just redeemed, and living with a breath that is not our own.) but this peace is afforded us, because all along it was always grace that held these (at once perfect and imperfect), friendships together, that gifted us to each other from the beginning. all good things come down from the Father of Lights.
If it is true that we are the average of the 5 people whom we are closest to/spend the most time with, then i’m thankful for what kind of person i must be becoming. I’m thankful for what’s rubbing off onto me, or more likely, sharpening me.
More joy, more steadfastness/endurance, more reading and doing the Word, more hospitality and good food for sharing. more generosity, more giving. again, more generosity, more giving. less fear (insecurity and secret self promotion) and more honesty. more singing. and seeing.
projects, learning app (collab across the state with sasha) and daily cal (collab with google maps). my hands are frozen. time for shower then bed.
wake up at 5am tomorrow, today, in 3 hours. photoshoot with nina before internship. photoshoot with ets-hokin for internship. still have to make sketches for samich shop mural. waaahhhooooooo
mornings and the word
i’ve been, for the most part, unemployed, and that means i have long free empty mornings stretched out before me 4 out of 5 week days. i made a commitment to reclaim my mornings about 1.5 months ago when I first began children’s ministry and read a passage by george muller on how he spent his mornings.
i’ve been reading 5 chapters of the bible every morning, at different paces. some chapters slow for meditation, some fast for continuity and oversight. one chapter from the histories, one from the poems, one from the prophets, one from the gospels, one from the epistles. something like that. i’ve been trying to read through the entire bible this way for three years now (two years for kjv, a year for esv), but something always interrupts this flow, and i eventually come back and re-place my five post-its again.
(i put teeny weeny checkmarks next to the chapters i’ve read to keep track. some chapter have up to 3 checkmarks.)
anyway, i’ve been awash in the richest words of the universe every morning. i’ve been learning to be hungry for it, in these regular hefty doses. it’s to the point where it feels weird for me to get on with my day without it. but it’s not to the point where I treasure His words more than my portion of food. and then i’ve been realizing something else.
in the morning, my eyes are wide open in astonishment, joy, terror, conviction, wonder at what i’m reading. but then by the end of the day, it’s like i never read them. i flipped through the pages of my journal this morning and the first half of everyday is a chronicling of the words that impressed upon me, but then, for some reason, the first half doesn’t impress upon the second half, which is a chronicling of my ideas/thoughts from the day. it’s this weird lack of dialogue between the two (the word i’ve read and the rest of my day). shouldn’t the Words that i treasure be informing my day, illuminating it? …and then, is the transformation of the heart invisible, or latent? is it slow coming? does the word touch so deep a depth in me that i’m not aware of it? do i just have eyes that don’t see and ears that don’t hear? am i a hearer of the Word only? how can i possibly apply the Word, all of it so weighty and vast and eternal, to my day; how about this day, today which is Tuesday? how does it happen that a finite mind, my mind, can put on the mind of Christ on this ground? God help me, I feel dense.
the Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile. Let him become a fool that he may become wise.
For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God …a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory…. take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart
Photoshop is A BUTT. I can’t understand why something that is so simple to do in real life (with a pen and paper) is so NONSENSICALLY difficult on the computer. Usually when I spend more than fifteen minutes on photoshop, I end up opening hundreds of tabs on google and going down rabbit holes upon rabbit holes of online tutorials.
But I’ve been challenging myself to LEARN. So today I decided I’d color in this log cabin on photoshop. sounded simple enough ….NO. SO ANGRY. SO FRUSTRATED. SO FLABBERGASTED. in exasperation i called a friend with a loaded machine gun of questions.
turns out, we had a really successful tele-tutorial! I managed to color in the log cabin and trees and some atmosphere = MIRACLE. of course, if I had just stuck to doing this in real life with some markers or watercolors, I’d have finished the whole thing in a quarter the time. but that’s ok. it was fun. the first image is a screen shot of my progress. the second image is what my friend made in the process of teaching me lol.
These are a little late…. but I was really excited (and relieved) to go to the post office with a stack of letters in my bag.
I think my favorite part about this project was getting to access these split-second impressions of 10 different people’s stories. And now these are being sent off around the world… the nearest one to SF, a few to the East Coast, one to England, one to India, one to Catalonia…
These are a little late but…
While I was writing these, I was imagining things like:
I wonder if they’re still gonna be together by the time this letter gets to him… I wonder if JP is anything like a friend I know… I wonder what anxieties Jason had about having a second child. Maybe he and Julie and Max and Wren have a white picket fence, and maybe it’s snowing over their home now. Maybe Jason pulls Max and Wren around in a red wagon on the weekends… Watch out Brian, Jerry’s tryin to make a move on Lisa, secretly through an anonymous letter service… Are Nilu Didi and Pari actually sisters? Where is Sony Mony?…I hope Joy is doing ok; I hope this Word of encouragement comes true… I didn’t know that Catalonia was a region in Spain with its own language (Catalan). molts records…i mes petons (many memories… and more kisses)is such a pretty thing to say… I wonder if Thea knew that loons were so beautiful. Maybe she and David would take walks around a lake near their house and watch the loons trying to walk… Haha should I include “scout out scout” into my vocabulary… I wonder how ‘British’ Tom, Helena, and Dan are. And what if Tom ends up being a third wheelin flatmate? That’s ok I’m gonna make him fantastic like Fantastic Mr Fox…
Snail Mail My Email is a worldwide collaborative art project where volunteer letter artists handwrite and artistically interpret strangers’ emails. http://snailmailmyemail.org
Doodled this in honor of a conversation about the mysteries of soymilk making