Since October of 1992, every Monday, The Little Grill restaurant has closed for regular business and become The Free Food For All Soup Kitchen, offering a free noon meal to Anyone in the World. The underlying idea is that of a cooperative meal rather than a charitable meal. The meal is served family style and is open to anyone regardless of anything, with no strings attached. Anyone is also welcome to help prepare the meal, serve or clean up. No one gets paid, and everyone who comes is encouraged to eat together.
As time went by, more and more people joined in. The Free Food For All Soup Kitchen grew and thrived. A jar was placed on the counter during the week for anyone who wished to make a donation to the soup kitchen. The organization has not lacked for money since. Food and help and good times have come even more willingly.
Large discussion meetings abounded, open to anyone in the world. Gradually, a vision of a future separate from The Grill emerged. The group began to eye a building near the restaurant, at the comer of Johnson and Main. First the focus was on a home for the soup kitchen. But gradually the idea set in that a place was needed to go beyond free food and explore aspects of community building, personal growth, and empowerment towards self-sufficiency. A new organization would be formed separate from the soup kitchen, legally and organizationally. This way the soup kitchen could remain Soup Kitchen and the new organization could expand and change as needed.
A well-attended public meeting was held in August of 1998 to decide on a name for the new organization. Consensus on a large scale led to the name "Our Community Place." This organization would maintain a separate bank account, incorporate with the state, create a board of directors, write organizational bylaws, apply for non-profit status with the federal government, and ultimately buy and renovate this property into a community center. Our Community Place would house and nurture, but not be limited to, The Free Food For All Soup Kitchen. Other things (some already in existence and some envisioned) that this building could house include: Yoga classes, a Pregnancy Sharing group, a recycling center, a whole foods buying group, Bible studies, rental and use of space by the Northeast Community Association, The Language Exchange, Soup Kitchen Theater, twelve-step meetings and a community garden, as well as helping people network to resources already available in our area.
These ideas have all been set in motion with our progress peaking on January 2, 2001 with the closing purchase of the desired building. We are extremely excited about owning this building. But the next step is renovating. The building has not been used for over ten years so there is a lot that needs to be done.
The other day at an OCP meeting, I learned something about myself that I just have to share with our readers. The reason we have these biweekly "Honesty' sessions, which sometimes last hours, is to probe our innermost thoughts and feelings. Ultimately, after some pretty intense analysis, we are all closer to one another. And I always leave the meetings feeling uplifted and inspired.
A few weeks ago, our friends Kent and Nancy illustrated a passage from "Corinthians," in the Bible, as it related to the OCP vision of the unity in our diversity. What I took from the corresponding discussion was an enormous amount of self-insight. The quotation from the Bible reflected on how everyone was equal, representing the different functions of a body. Without one part, as I know the body, the whole will not work to its fullest ability.
What I overstood after the meeting is crucial to the existence of OCP in our community We would not be where we are today without the contributions of everyone. No matter how small the role we play is, or where and how we contribute, the lasting result is an intentional holistic unity.
There is a greater metaphor, extending beyond OCP and the community. Now I am feeling such happiness, because after this deep discussion I discovered MY place in the body of the universe. If I am to serve as the mouth, and voice the matters of concern, I must learn to be a better listener, and to realize the difference between hearing people and truly listening to them. I am dedicating myself to serve in this manner, and to overstand that people can approach me as someone who will accept their words without judgment.
I am sharing my love of communication in an open and honest manner with the world. I'll use poetry, music, and art to express myself. We are all one, possessing an infinite array of ideas, and I am only a small voice adrift in the sea of humanity. Yet I strive to manifest positivity in all I say and do, whilg listenins to the heart of the community in all love with the universe.OCP
I believe in God.
I stand in the company of some of the great heroes and heroines of social change and non-violence of our age: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Jesus.
The work and teaching these people is strongly admired and talked about among advocates for social change. However, one element of the story is often omitted from the impassioned accounts of the philosophies and successes of these powerful leaders. Ironically, it is the one element which each of them said, adamantly and repeatedly, was the very source of their strength and success, their very reason for being: God's love and devotion to the ways of God.
My experience is that such talk is practically taboo among revolutionaries, reformers, and intellectuals. I often find it difficult to express my excitement about scripture or some new realization about the amazing ways of God because of the awkward silence it inevitably produces. I can talk about Gandhi and Dr. King and invoke animated and exciting discussion, as long as I don't mention the "G" word. It 's as if we want to leave that aspect out of the story. It's too messy. It doesn't fit. Yet to the people themselves it was the whole point of their story.
if I wanted to break new ground in physics, wouldn't I go to the people who had previously done so and read their work seriously? And if in doing so, Einstein said, "Now here is the main point, the concept upon which all of my work rests...", would I conclude ihat he was a genius on all but that point? If I tried to proceed to grasp his work and to re-enact it, while not accepting the foundation principle, would I not be prone to frustration and failure?
Likewise, if I try to further the work of Gandhi, King and Mother Teresa, and to be led by their examples, while ignoring their own words about the most important aspect of their work, I might also find myself frustrated and ineffective.
Admittedly, many of my religious brothers and sisters have used Judgmentalism, hatred, cruelty fear, sexism, you name it, in the name of God, and have upset a lot of people for a lot of good reasons. However, these ways are not the ways of God; they are the ways of this system of domination and violence in which we live. The ways of God are compassion, loving kindness, mercy, humility, meekness, patience, and peacemaking: clearly opposites to ways of this age.
We remain a volunteer organization where no one gets paid. But we are all free to enjoy the rich spiritual rewards this project has provided. No one knows what the future holds. So plug in. Join us. We can make it up together as we go along.
All are welcome at business meetings. Dates and times vary but we meet at least once a week. Generally, Mondays after soup kitchen we meet at the Little Grill (around 2:00). Feel free to contact a board member if you would like more information.