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On Pilgrimage in Oklahoma City

by Robert Waldrop, Labor Day, AD 2003, Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House

Summer has fled, the August heat has broken, and the State Fair rains are coming a bit early, for which my fall garden is very grateful. This year I’ve planted parsnips, purple hulled peas, collard greens, green beans, trail of tears beans, and 2 varieties each of turnips, chard, carrots, and mustard, most of which are already sprouting. We’ ve been picking the chard I planted in the spring, also some self seeded turnip greens and mizuna to make mixed greens throughout July and August. I tear them in pieces, saute them in a bit of olive oil until they wilt, and then add water (with boullion or stock), crushed red pepper, dried rosemary, thyme, and oregano, and then cook for about a half hour. As my grandmother would say, “them are some good eats, Bobby Max.” In September there are a number of important activities coming on. On Friday, September 25th, the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride will come through Oklahoma City to highlight issues involving undocumented workers. We are providing lunch for them that day, at Mayflower Congregational Church. I am going to start cooking the day before, Thursday afternoon, at Epiphany church, and am looking for volunteers to help both Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. The meal will be pasta and a cooked tomato sauce, and I am getting as much of the ingredients as possible directly from local farmers. We will hopefully be making the sauce from fresh tomatoes, and the bread of course from home ground wheat. We are feeding 100, so it isn’t a small task. Please help if you can. That evening at 7 there will be a forum at Mayflower Congregational with the workers, open to the public; that afternoon at 2:30 there is a press conference with the workers at the Latino Community Development Center. The next day, Saturday the 26th, there are two important events. Catholic Charities will be having a social justice conference at the pastoral center, and the Regional Food Bank is sponsoring a 2 day permaculture workshop, featuring Jerome Ostenkowski of Rocky Mountain Permaculture in Colorado. I am trying to figure out bilocation so I can go to both. If you are interested in the social justice conference, contact Catholic Charities at 523-3000; if you are interested in the permaculture workshop, call me at 613 4688. Meanwhile, our own work of social justice goes on. The Oklahoma Food Cooperative Organizing Committee is now selling shares in its order delivery service, enclosed is more information about that. And we continue to deliver food to the poor two Saturday mornings a month, and Marcus and Kathy and others continue to go out and deliver meals to homeless people in the downtown area each month. We used to deliver food to the poor every week, and then we cut back to 3 weeks/month, and then this summer we had to cut back to two Saturdays/month. This reflects our attempt to match the resources we have available with the requests we receive for help. We can only do what we can, with what we have, where we are. The issues are not only food, but also help in delivering the food. We rarely have a situation where we have too many people show up to help. And there are other things that we do that don ‘t have to happen on Saturday mornings. Our food pantry area constantly needs cleaning and organizing. When you move as much food as we do, well, food just doesn’t fall from heaven into the grocery bags and miraculously find its way to people in need. Somebody has to get the food, unload it, stack and organize it, put it into the bags, take the messages, organize the delivery lists, load it into vehicles, do the actual deliveries, and then clean up afterwards. This work doesn’t change much from week to week, and hasn’t for four years, except that the tendency is for the work to increase, not decrease. As our economy continues its slow motion crash, the number of people in need continues its steady increase, while the resources to help them either stay steady or are themselves in decline. The margins are the first to collapse, and the last to recover, and we see regular evidence of this in our work of mercy. Given the fact that utility bills will be sharply higher this coming winter, I am very worried about what is going to happen to the people we serve. I am working on a flyer to distribute this winter with suggestions for how to cope with the winter heating emergency that is upon us (I know its hard to think about this at the tail end of a hot summer), the best advice I can discern is to suggest that people only heat one room. We should begin thinking now about collecting blankets and coats for the winter, and we should also all be praying for mild weather throughout the coming winter. As this is Labor Day, we should stop for a moment and reflect on the Church’s teachings regarding labor. The Church teaches that labor is superior to capital, but our culture of death of course has reversed this and our economic structures give the advantage to capital. The Church teaches the duty of employers to pay a living wage, but our culture of death makes excuses for low wage employers, even though low wage employers are as deadly to a community as methamphetamine dealers. An unfair and unjust system of globalization, which from beginning to end is rigged to favor the powerful, is destroying jobs in the United States and providing transnational corporations with structural incentives to oppress workers in poor countries with a system characterized by low wages, opposition to unions, and physical coercion of workers. People defend this by claiming that “free trade” is beneficial to everybody, but they conveniently forget to note that nothing involved with the present system of globalization even remotely resembles ‘free trade’. In Seminole and Ada, 900 workers are being displaced by this system, as the Wrangler corporation moves its manufacturing plants to Mexico. Let us keep these workers in our prayers, but let us also give them practical help. We have begun an outreach to them to encourage them to start cooperative enterprises and small market gardens to replace their corporation jobs. Someone said to me, “Bob, sometimes the stuff you write is so gloomy. But on the other hand, you are always doing and advising perky happy things like gardening, baking bread, and etc. I don’t get it.” Well, I try not to confuse people, but these times are not always easy to read. I think it is important not to have illusions about what is happening out there, but also to remember that even though we may live in terrible times, “all the way to heaven is heaven”, as St. Catherine of Sienna said, a saying often quoted by Dorothy Day. I think the “Serenity Prayer” is very important. We do need serenity to accept things we cannot change, courage to change what we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Our refuge is in a constantly renewing faith in God and an increased holiness in our daily lives and work. God’s blessings be with all of you, we are grateful for the support and help we receive from so many of you. Your brother, Robert Waldrop 1524 NW 21st Oklahoma City, OK 73106 For more information on our coop, visit http://www.oklahomafood.org/okfoodservice.htm