The shutdown, and kindness

This past weekend brought us DC’s most substantial snowfall in years. We got nearly a foot, and it was so beautiful and such fun. I made it to the Open Discussion Project meeting but on my way home, things were getting dicey. Monday was a snow day and the boys delighted in hours of sledding and snowball fights and hot chocolate.

Meanwhile, the Trump shutdown continues; it’s now, on day 26, the longest in history. Federal workers received paychecks for $0.00 last week. Can you imagine the gall of pulling the rug from people suddenly, not paying them, and then reminding them of that by paying to send zero balance check stubs? Furloughed people are pawning jewelry and other belongs, selling their kids’ toys and household items, and being sent notices of pending eviction. They are responsible for nothing and everything while McConnell is hiding, Graham sounds rabid, and Trump is feeding young athletic champions lukewarm fast food.

I am so deeply ashamed and furious beyond compare.

Although I’m not a believer, I adhere completely to the tenet that we are each other’s keepers. One of Quakerism’s main pillars is that of community stewardship. Actually, community and stewardship are distinct Quaker values but if you tend and nurture community, you are a steward of it, so I’m going with the compound right now. For the past eight-and-a-half years, I have been a part of a Quaker community because my sons attend a Friends school. I feel gratitude pretty much daily for this gift, imperfect as it sometimes is. Communal stewardship seems especially crucial right now, and what’s keeping me heartened right now is just how much of it I’m seeing around here.

José Andrés, the chef and restaurateur and World Central Kitchen head who has been feeding Puerto Rico since Maria slammed it, has just opened a WCK in downtown DC. #ChefsForFeds gave out 4,400 gorgeous, free meals today -double what they anticipated- and will be open from 11a-6p until the shutdown ends. I am volunteering in their kitchen on Friday and cannot wait to serve. If you’re local and would like to try and snag a shift, you can do that here. If you aren’t in the area, but would like to support Chef Andrés’ work, please donate to WCK.

The veterinary group that saved Nutmeg after he was hit last year, Friendship Hospital for Animals, is waiving emergency exam fees and offering deferred/extended payment options for furloughed Federal employees. Local bookstores, salons, wellness centers, and restaurants are offering discounts to furloughed workers, and folks in need of diabetic supplies can message @Alt US Press Secty on Twitter.

A dear friend in Minnesota’s twin cities area works for a homeless youth organization. Many of the people it serves need access to WIC -the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children- to help feed their families. Due to the shutdown however, WIC is closed, and neither taking new clients nor able to provide benefits to those on their rolls. My friend set up an amazon wishlist for baby formula to meet her organization’s interim needs, spread the word on social media, and by this evening, she had what she needed.

Earlier today, a friend was near the National Zoo waiting for her daughter to finish an appointment. The Zoo is closed because of the shutdown, but my friend saw caretakers heading in to feed animals and clean their habitats. They aren’t getting paid. It was really cold today, so my friend walked into a tiny shop, Baked by Yael, to get a coffee. I’d like to share this exchange she overheard between Yael and a man who seemed to be a higher-up at the zoo.

He said, “I heard about how generous you have been with our employees and I came to thank you. Some of our younger employees can’t afford to feed their families and you have saved them.” The owner replied, “of course, I can’t imagine not helping them; we were lucky to get donations so now we are able to give them not only free pastries but free soups and sandwiches too.”

Amidst a temper tantrum of epic proportion by people elected to serve us, regular folks are stepping up to ease hardship and keep the wheels on the bus. It is so moving but also so worrisome and sad. Please, in any way you can, be and do good. This isn’t just a DC issue. 800,000 federal works didn’t get paychecks last week. They live all across this country and come from all backgrounds. They are members of the coast guard and the TSA, they are caretakers of our national parks and the wildlife and safety features within, they work for the IRS, they run shelters for victims of domestic violence. This shutdown hurts all of us, especially those who aren’t being paid.

This coming Monday is the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday. If your area is anything like mine, service opportunities will be aplenty. Find a place to get involved- the boys and I are going to the service day at school; one friend is hosting a sandwich-making party at her house for an area shelter.

Be kind, give in all ways you can, hold your representatives accountable, and please, for the love of everything, vote the bad people out.