Thursday, September 27, 2012

Vision, Faith, Abundance

This picture

highlights the abundance at the Free Farm that I’ve been wanting to write about recently.

I’ve also been wanting to write about this passage from the Gospel of Mark for a while now.

“He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain--first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’"

So here’s my chance to do both.

This scripture shows us a pretty wild vision of the kingdom.  Usually, in similar stories, we see the sower as God or maybe Jesus.  How wild is that?  God out scattering seed without taking any kind of control over how it sprouts - whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed does its thing.  God scattering seed and watching it grow and not understanding how it all works.  What kind of faith does that show?  God happy to take in the harvest, joyful over what has been given even is God doesn’t know exactly how it came to be.  It gives us a pretty different idea of God that what is usually preached.

Tree and the other good folks who run the Free Farm are not like the God represented in the passage I quoted in that they do know just what they’re doing.  This kind of plant will flourish best in this location, here’s how you harden off a seedling that’s been in the green house to get it ready for planting outside, this is how to make the best compost.  And everything is well planned at the Free Farm, this plant will go in this bed, here’s where we need more irrigation, time to take down the beans because we’re done harvesting them and we can put something else there now.  Unlike the God of this passage, Tree can tell you exactly how a seed sprouts and grows.  Unlike the harvest in the passage, the produce of the Free Farm does flourish under the abundant care of our many volunteers, not regardless of whether they sleep in or come to the Free Farm on workdays.

And all that knowledge and care results in the kind of abundance seedlings in front of Pancho in that first picture represent.  Abundance that goes to feed people in need who otherwise have limited or no access to good, fresh produce. 

But there is some faith involved too.  The faith of the folks who started the Free Farm that an old abandoned and littered lot that even after cleaning up looked like this:

could one day look like this:

Faith that each Wednesday and Saturday we can get enough volunteers out to do all the work required to get those seeds from sprout to harvest.  Faith that we can find someone each workday to bring the vegan lunch we always serve to our volunteers.  And, these days, faith that we can find another parcel of land equally as suitable to the Free Farm’s needs when we have to move in a few years to make way for development.

So come out some Wednesday or Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2p.m. and help us keep the faith.  We’ve got plenty of friendly people to show you around and a good lunch to share.  Chances are we’ve got a task or two suited to your ability level.  But best of all you’ll have a chance to help us grow some faith that as wild and wonderful a vision as the Free Farm can have a viable place in San Francisco. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Occupy the Voting Booth

A year ago today, the Occupy movement began.  It gave me such hope to see people organizing in that way.  Even though PICO uses different methods to get the same jobs done, I and other individual organizers found ourselves grateful for the Occupy movement’s success in highlighting the questions and issues no one was talking much about before that point.

The movement gave us a shorthand for the unhelpful wealth disparity in this nation, 99%, 1%, are common parlance now.  They act as shorthand to keep us aware of the reality of wealth disparity and the systems that keep it in place.

The Occupations were important and made a real change in the consciousness of many.  Today there have been some protests and rallies in New York City, here in San Francisco and elsewhere.  They look to be in the hundreds rather than the thousands we saw last year at this time.  It will be interesting to see if a strong Occupation reemerges.  

Meanwhile, everyone who cares about the direction of our country has to also look at other avenues for change.  Though our democracy may be on life support, it isn't dead yet and exercising our right to vote along with our rights to free speech and free assembly can help revive it.

Too often I hear from folks who do not believe their vote counts or that voting makes one complicit in our current systems of injustice.  Neither one of these beliefs reflect reality.  The last thing the big corporations and the power mongers want is for you to vote, because your vote actually does have power.  You give that up when you refuse to vote.
I learned at a recent SFOP meeting that over 60% of the people who actually vote are wealthy, white, and seniors.  It was a crystallizing moment for me.  Why don’t politicians pay attention to the needs of young people, minorities, the poor?  Because they know there are not as many of us who vote.  Voter demographic information is tracked and the politicians can look it up as easily as anyone else.  We can hold all the rallies, sit ins, protests we want, but if we don’t vote, they don’t care.

It’s just that simple.

If your aren’t already registered, you can do it right now at if you live in California.  That’s simple too.  Then get out and vote on election day, or send in a vote by mail ballot ahead of time and beat the rush.   
The way to break the power of big money is with a big vote.  If you want your interests to matter, you must get out to the polls and vote.  And, yes, I know about voter suppression laws and all the other tactics those who have the power right now have in place to keep power all to themselves. 

Not going to the polls doesn’t make any of that go away.  The way we beat it is turning out in droves.  If the politicians see a lot of us at the polls they will see and hear us better at the rallies, too.