May 31, 2009

Since I moved to Chicago last fall, I have been volunteering at a soup kitchen. At first I really enjoyed it. I felt like I was helping people, but now I've taken a much more cynical view.

I have come to realize that we have all kinds of volunteers who come and work and we
often have more than we can handle. This means that when volunteers come, there are many weeks that we need to work extra hard to find projects for them to do. Sometimes we will bag up candy or crackers to hand out to people, even though the people coming already have a ton of food that we give them. It's not so much that people are hungry but more so that we need to find work for our volunteers.

There have also been a few weeks where we are short staffed, but we still manage to get everything done and it doesn't really seem like that much more work. Sometimes it's even less stressful than the weeks we have a ton of volunteers.

I have also come to learn that there are two other groups serving food in the same neighborhood on Sunday. One does lunch and one serves at 3:00. We serve dinner at 5.

All of this makes me wonder how much these people really need this. Is all this work we do more for our benefit or for the benefit of the people who come to eat. Yes, I do think it's good that the rich, white people who come in from the suburbs come into contact with people who are different them, but I don't feel it's fair to those who come and eat. Are we objectifying them when the volunteers come in and have an "experience" with them. These volunteers rarely go out and talk with the people eating and a huge divide exists between most of the volunteers and the guests.

I am having an incredibly hard time reconciling these feelings and keeping my ability to continue working at the soup kitchen.

May 30, 2009

Why can't I get paid for doing what I love?

Right now I'm working on a few projects which keep me super busy and I enjoy them all (even if some of them are incredibly frustrating sometimes), yet for all this work I am only being compensated with satisfaction and learning. That's great until you think about the fact that we live in a capitalistic society where things like food and rent cost money. Something I'm not getting out of these projects.

One of my projects is working on setting up a Network of Intentional Communities in Chicago. This is something I've wanted to for a long time and earlier this spring I was presented with the opportunity to work on this. My friend John organized a get-together of people interested in community and it was attended by over 50 people. As a part of this people expressed an interest in continuing to get together. Bam. Opportunity presented. I love the idea of people connecting and building community. These people are already trying to do it within their homes and now this allows them to reach broader.

I am also in the process of setting up my own intentional community. We're searching for a space now and it's really exciting. I can't wait to live with people who share similar values as myself. Hopefully we'll have a house and so be able to work on projects such as gardening. I long to have some one to come home to and to care about how my day went and for me to care about theirs. I also forsee us working on various projects together and I'm super excited about this.

Finally, my biggest project is interning at Uncommon Ground on their rooftop farm. I am working on education and outreach around the farming and I love it! I am learning a ton about farming and hopefully teaching others too. I think we are soon going to experience a major crisis in our food system (though you could also argue we already are). People need to be educated about healthy food and alternatives to today's industrial farm system. That is exactly what we're doing at Uncommon Ground.

If only I could convince someone to pay me to do all of this so I could afford to eat.

May 28, 2009

How can I encourage this writing thing? Writing is something that takes practice, and I recognize that. Yet that practice takes so much effort and involves so many decisions. Do I write online, do I write in my journal, or a Word document? Is this something I'll come back to or something that I just need to get out? What do I write about? So often I am overwhelmed by these questions and feel such pressure to write that I end up doing nothing.

I have said that my goal for this summer is to get something I have written published. I often get really excited about this kind of stuff, but then don't get much further than being excited and soon lose interest. But I must remain motivated to reach this goal.