CENTER UPDATE 2016: STILL OTHER SEEDS FELL ON GOOD SOIL
Many have asked how I am feeling after Trump was elected to President of the US. The largest natural disaster in my lifetime just hit my community. It reminds me of both the day after my father died in my childhood home during Christmas and the day after 9/11. There is tremendous grief from many people that cry and weep on my couch or calls at unexpected hours with vulnerable confessions — women who tell me they have survived sexual abuse and feel like their abuser is now the president, undocumented students bracing for losing jobs, licenses, and freedom, union people anxiously contemplating a world with less worker power. It might take time but my career as a political strategist and writer tell me the threats are all very real.
And yet in this collective venerability is such love, such intimacy, and such meaning. I have never had so many people say, I love you, out of the blue, or say take care and write random love notes to each other on social media or text. Old friends, I haven’t seen in years, call to reconfirm the best we have shared in our friendship over a lifetime. In this place and time, my community which we have trained over the years to respond to these “moments of whirlwind” are staying up into the night making frantic calls, writing manifestos, and in long emotional discussions—dreaming of new possibilities, accessing likely causalities, preparing for non- violent war. The liminal space is of great and immense community that comes in crisis. I think of the masterpiece by Rebecca Solnit called Paradise Built in Hell, in which she writes of the amazing sense of community, intimacy and resilience that comes in the midst of disaster. It explains it all– I am living in a paradise built in hell.
I feel both tremendous love, intimacy, meaning, and community, and a consistent anxious feeling that upsets my stomach, kills my sleep, and makes me feel at times exhausted— and without an alarm it wakes me up early in morning with so much compulsive energy to access my political surroundings. And like tides that come at unexpected times, I feel grief–my own, and others. And sometimes I think — Is this really happening?
Never have I felt so grateful for the Center for the Working Poor, and all the movements that we have help to seed, and mentor—like Ifnotnow, and Cosecha—which has been leading the protest and resistance to Trump. We have all been there for each other. You, the Center Supporters, have nourished us all. I could not have done this without you. I ask that again consider support and donations. Thank You.
Here is a more detailed update below:
3“A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” 9 Matthew 13: 3-8
When people ask, what is the Center for the Working Poor, I try to find a short answer, but it is hard. To some, I say an interspiritual Catholic Worker Community that focuses on resistance work, and non-violent social justice work. To others I say, we are both an intentional community that provides a community to its inhabitants, runs a meditation (prayer group)/house Church, and a non-profit that incubates social justice projects. But it is hard to actually define it, because we do not fit the definition of most non-profits or most intentional communities. I am constantly scared that Dorothy Day would shame me if she comes down in spirit from heaven and from her canonization process from the Catholic Church. In my nightmares she yells at me: “This is not a real Catholic Worker.” Talking to many Catholic Workers, I found out many have the same nightmare of sorts. We are neither traditionally Catholic, nor traditionally even workers. I would define us more as contemplatives and social justice activists.
After a lot of insecurity about how we run the Center over the 10 years, I have come to some peace about it. For years I would ruminate with anxiety… If I could raise more money I could do this… if I could involve more people…if I could only coordinate more the activists of the house and the nonprofit…If only…A lot of these expectations come from comparing myself to others in the non-profit world—with better plans, better structured organization, better fundraising, better processes of collective decision making. I would ask, is there anyone that runs this crazy community the way we do, or the way I do? It seems like sometimes I am just throwing a lot of seeds out there and not sure if any of it will take hold.
What is important that people know is that we are both a balance between a community rooted in a house and prayer group and a social justice non-profit that has a mission to save the world through non-violent social change. My vision has propelled a book that I wrote with my brother. Over the last 3 years with my good friend Carlos, and his non-profit called Ayni, we had an organizational baby called The Momentum Training Institute. In the last 2 years, Momentum had babies, which are now new movements that are fighting for immigrant rights, and end the occupation in Palestine, and fight against global climate change. Now I am mentor to many leaders in these movements, whom occasionally visit me in my community or come to our centering prayer meetings and call me for emotional support. If this seems all confusing, it is because it is confusing. We have sown many seeds; some have grown and some have died, but to understand some of the seeds that have grown, I have included a few articles here about some of my babies. I am very proud of them.
I am grateful. I felt like I had a calling when I started the center 10 years ago, but I thought I was crazy for dropping out and living a simple life in community. I thought my vision of starting new non-violent movements was crazy. I threw a lot of seeds out there, but it was hard to believe any would grow. They had little for soil. Now is a time where the seeds of my vision and calling have fallen on good soil and are growing. It is always amazing to me how much this has little to do with my plans and my will and how much it has to do with the spirit. You have to have faith that some seeds will fall on the right soil and you do not create the soil. Now there are hundreds that are crazy with me, sharing a vision of starting these new movements. If it was not for your support—all the people that are reading this—all my supporters—you were the first to have faith—you were my soil. Thank you. I could not have done it without you. Now we need your support more than ever. Please donate to us, help us. Continue to be our soil. Now with Trump elected and fresh attacks on the most vulnerable immigrants, poor, and marginalized communities–we need it more than ever.
December 17th, 2020
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die …” — Ecclesiastes 3:1 “Surrender to what is dying, and become attentive to what is emerging.” — … Continue reading
December 27th, 2019
After being invited to Barcelona, Spain this fall for a chaotic tour of book talks, TV appearances, and radio interviews, I needed a place to recover from all the activity. And one of the greatest realizations of my life has … Continue reading
December 24th, 2018
As many of you know, I am a social justice geek. I compulsively read and think about social movements, and have been doing this for a long time, and am now considered a specialist in the field commonly referred to … Continue reading
January 18th, 2018
The election of Trump was like somebody threw a political bomb into the middle of a crowded room. For undocumented people, it meant fear of losing DACA and being deported. For labor unions and the working poor, it meant losing … Continue reading
January 9th, 2017
Many have asked how I am feeling after Trump was elected to President of the US. The largest natural disaster in my lifetime just hit my community. It reminds me of both the day after my father died in my … Continue reading
December 31st, 2014
Dear Friends, I started the Center for the Working Poor in 2006. I donated all my money and my car, and slept on the floor of my shared, cramped apartment with our first full time volunteer, Clayton Perry. We ate … Continue reading
December 17th, 2012
The Center for the Working Poor, (aka the Burning Bush Community), continues to share in the wonderful mix of serving the poor, communal living, prayer and meditation, and nonviolent movement organizing that distinguishes our beautiful home. In addition to delivering … Continue reading
December 15th, 2011
By Paul Engler Every once in a while, a rare and special moment comes when you realize that you are doing more than turning out for just another protest. Instead, you realize that you are in the middle of true … Continue reading