June 9, 2011

Reflection Remarks

Here's the beginning of this series following the city's effort to criminalize feeding the homeless in Skid Row.

Yesterday, the young hippie couple moved out after spending their first year of marriage here. They planned it that way, that their first and formative year of marriage would be spent at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker.

They met at an agricultural community in Georgia. They couldn’t afford rings so they got tattoos on their ring fingers.

Sybilla was an amazing cook. Kurt was a brewmaster.

They were much more likely to say they loved each other in the kitchen than they were to call each other assholes. And if one did call the other an asshole, they could be found hugging and kissing in the front room soon enough.

Sybilla was a social organizer, leading everyone for a Boba Tea after a day working at the soup kitchen. Kurt was always lending a hand, like taking the Catholic Worker video of the breakfast line dispute with the police.

Sarah from Canada left last week, so three people have left within the week. It is the way of community life, of life itself: Goodbyes.

What’s called the summer program begins this weekend, however, with several prospective volunteers filling the Victorian as a sort of come-and-see.

Hellos are a part of life here, too.

The house transitions. It is a natural time of reflection.

Kurt and Sybilla left on a Greyhound to spend their one-year anniversary on the Appalachian Trail. Then they are moving to Indiana, Sybilla’s home, where they have secured a room in an Indianapolis townhome for $200 a month. That’s living simply, and having faith you will be taken care of.

If the world was in the hands of people like Kurt and Sybilla, we could confidently pass it on to the next generations, but that’s not how it is.

At Kurt and Sybilla’s farewell party, shortly after Kurt toasted everybody in the beautifully cramped third-floor community room, Jeff Dietrich, who has spent his entire adult life here, was sitting outside on the third-floor balcony. He shared his hopes that the community house, officially called a house of hospitality, as well as the work of feeding the poor in Skid Row would continue for another couple decades, but there are no guarantees.

Inside, his wife, Catherine Morris, was answering a question about how exactly the Catholic Church released her from her vows as a nun when she decided to marry Jeff in 1974 and join up with this band of radicals. But join up she did. And for the last 40 years she has been the leader of hundreds, if not thousands who have revolved in and out of this place over the decades.

These days, Catherine Morris’s laugh and warmth and bite is the same as ever, but she moves slowly. Her knee has no cartilage left.

It’s easy to wonder about the future of this community watching her climb the stairs in the old Victorian.

It’s easy to wonder about the future of the coffee and oatmeal line, too. 

There is some hope the police will leave the oatmeal and coffee line alone, largely because they have left it alone for more than a month now. Members of Food Not Bombs have also been encouraged to shut down their free food giveaway, and so have members of the Dream Center. But all three groups continue to serve food.

Another reason to think the police might leave the breakfast line alone is that the city hasn’t re-filed the paperwork on Dietrich’s arrest last month.

Then again, if the Orlando police arrest people for feeding the poor, why not the LAPD?

All will be told. 


Bernie said...

What a kind and understanding post Ed, yet I have a feeling of sadness that I can't quite explain. I wish all these people well and am sending big hugs and tons of prayers.......:-

Brian Miller said...

nice. great to meet others there in your house...i think that couple that spent their first year together is really cool...i imagine they got to know each other in ways they would not have otherwise...

Wine and Words said...

I feel like I am reading the book, chapter by chapter. I'm missing the photos...grainy black and whites with telling faces. Special Shutter Bug shots :)

I love how I've come to know (and I use the word know very loosely) this community through you!

Cye said...

I hope the police let them be, Ed. And keep on writing. :)

lucychili said...


Mike said...

GREAT post, Ed! So good to have you with us for the past month.

Claudia said...

wow - Kurt and Sybilla seem to be real characters...people like them and the others you mention make a community what it is..thanks for introducing us to them ed

The Empress said...

How wonderful to be among people who know what's important, and what's needed and who are living life now, : real and raw.

How I miss that.

She Writes said...

I like couples like Kurt and Sybilla. I hope they travel far and wide.

Su-sieee! Mac said...

Faith and hope that all will work out in the end is so tough to hang onto at times. But, then I'd rather do so than not.

Phoenix said...

I love these personal stories that give faces and names to the workers, and it makes me root for you guys to be able to feed the homeless even more.

Such a shame what happened in Florida. So sad.

Ocean Girl said...

Hello Ed, I read all your stories that I have missed. They were like a movie picture playing, I watched and understood. Thank you.

*The Old Geezer said...

Greetings from Southern California

I am your newest follower. I invite you to visit TOGB and become a follower, if you want too.

Take care and have a nice day :-)


Vicki Rocho said...

I'm fascinated by this community house. It's eons away from anything I've ever experienced...keep these posts coming!

ed pilolla said...

thanks, vicki,
i need to kick my draft into shape and post it in my blog. it'd be fun to do that. i think later in the year.