What’s “inspiring” about the film A Place at the Table–a documentary about poverty and hunger, a film calling us to action in regards to a lack of nutrition for one in four kids in the USA?
I saw it last week—featuring actor Jeff Bridges, Ph.Ds, social workers, and ordinary people struggling to feed their children–or attend school without feeling hungry.
This film shows that “being hungry” doesn’t always look like the protruding bellies we’ve seen on television, children from sub-Sahara Africa or Bangladesh. There is hunger nearby, and it’s often kept hidden because people feel ashamed. Hunger in the USA often occurs at the end of the month, and obesity often results from poor nutrition.
“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.”
Ann Kastberg is another person living into the wonder. She’s one of those born-agains, but not in the way you might think: After a career as an accountant and years raising kids, she chose a new husband, and then she chose frogs. Russ is a great guy. As for the frogs, few people get more excited about these thin-skinned critters than does Ann.
With waders strapped high, she points to a slimy egg-mass, “Another one! It’s a Red-legged!” she hollers, and someone on the crew will squiggle a line to the tally of record.
When I met Ann years ago I wondered what drove her. I wondered how someone gets so dedicated, becomes an amateur-expert engrossed in the lives of frogs and salamanders–learning about the lifecycle of amphibians and tallying egg-mass-sightings for the use of scientists–as if earning her own Ph.D.
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
Though Donna Roy grew up Catholic on a farm in Maine, from a young age she felt there must be more than a single way to view life.
“People do it differently all over the world,” she thought. “‘All those babies in China are not going to go to hell just because they haven’t been baptized,’ I can remember thinking–and I would cry at night sometimes.”
This gentle, inclusive view has informed Donna’s work in Korea and Bangladesh with locals, from coast to coast in the United States supporting newly-arrived refugees, and now as a therapist and teacher in Portland, Oregon.
Soon after we moved to Portland last summer, our neighbors mentioned Pippa Arend, Development Director of p:ear(project education, art, recreation). They had attended a dinner-party at her Northwest-home–a fund-raiser for this non-profit that “creatively mentors homeless youth”.
“You should check it out,” Cam said. “They’re doing good work.”
Pippa, according to my neighbor, had turned personal loss into gain, had taken both her time and resources–not to mention her own “feral” youth (she would later tell me) and co-created a program serving homeless youth who struggle to find their fit–and to build hope for their future.
When in her late-20s, Pippa was thriving as artist and entrepreneur. After college in New England and a few love-sick years in Poland, she had worked with welding-artist Eric Peterson, owner of Unique Forms. By 28, she owned Tornado Creations, designing and selling high-end custom furniture.
“Life was fun but a little directionless. On the surface, it all seemed good, but my life lacked community and accountability.”
That’s when she met Joy “who, fortunately, saw something in me and asked if I’d volunteer teaching art to kids at The Greenhouse School where she worked.” Backed by The Salvation Army, Pippa loved this new work. But, after only six months, funding slipped away, and the school closed.
That’s what Allyndreth Stead, owner of the social business WhitePhoenix Acupuncture, says. An acupuncturist and Nationally Certified Herbalist, she provides treatment on a sliding-scale from her community-style practice in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland.
White Phoenix is a cozy place, and my first visit was unlike any medical experience I’d had in the United States: No big fancy desk for Susan, the assistant, and no private room for me. Almost immediately, I could see how many people were lying on a bed or sitting in a recliner, resting with eyes closed or talking quietly with Allyndreth–her ipad in hand as she took notes. Relaxing music played, and colorful cloths and lantern-balls softened the sound and warmed the atmosphere.
Though awkward and unsure during my first visit, I felt comfortable once I understood the set-up. I’ve never felt abandoned with needles stuck in my body, and if ever I need anything, Allyndreth or Susan respond quickly.
Unlike a typical doctor’s appointment where you show up at 1pm and leave an hour or so later, here the patient can rest for as long as she likes. No hurry, no worry. Patients are free to linger.