What do you do?

Someone at Atlanta Friends Meeting recently asked me, “What do you do?” This was meant to ascertain how I spend my time apart from my responsibilities as Friend in Residence. Below is a snapshot of “what I do” or at least what I “did” this past month.

COMMUTE

While Charlotte and I do own a vehicle, living at the meetinghouse has afforded us the opportunity to significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. 

In the month of October I logged 78 miles on my old mountain bike, traversing the narrow streets and scenic trails of Decatur, Clarkston, and Atlanta. A highlight thus far has to be cycling through the lush and lovely Lullwater Preserve.

Every dark weekday morning Charlotte gets to school via a combination of MARTA bus and walking. In the afternoons she enjoys the three-mile stroll from Medlock Park back home, always ready to share highlights from her day and often of her journey.

When I’m not cycling, I can usually be found on MARTA or sidewalks. 

We are not fully car-free, however our move here has shifted us from a two-car-dependent household to a couple that rarely uses our sole vehicle. And the benefits of this transition are multiple – physical and spiritual health, financial, and environmental.

COLLABORATE

I am glad that Kevin W. has joined Atlanta Friends Meeting as its new property coordinator. I’ve enjoyed brainstorming with Kevin ways in which the meetinghouse can speak more clearly to the Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peacemaking, integrity, community, equality, and sustainability. I look forward to working with Kevin in tangible ways.

Kudos to Hannah M. and Alex Z. of Atlanta Friends Meeting for sustaining the relationship between Atlanta Friends Meeting and Innovation Law Lab. These monthly asylum defense workshops are a hidden gem of engaged solidarity at the meetinghouse. My small collaborative efforts have thus far been welcoming our Central American guests and offering transportation for these families to and from the meetinghouse, knowing that they are cash-strapped and have typically paid $50-$80 to commute to and from here usually from Cobb and Gwinnett. I know Alex is seeking ways to highlight this ongoing effort with and solicit more support from the Meeting, I am encouraged that this relationship holds a high value amongst Friends.

Another tangible way we’re connecting with immigrants is through a partnership with Paz Amigos (Peace Friends). Paz Amigos greets individuals released from Georgia’s immigration detention centers. Las week we had the opportunity to offer hospitality to, H., a gentleman from Cuba. Two years after he and his wife, A., left their homeland they finally reached the United States where he knew he would be automatically granted asylum, but not until they were forcibly separated at the border and A. detained for two months and H. for four and a half months. Released from Stewart Detention Center, a for-profit prison in southwest Georgia, we were his first taste of freedom in the US. His first meal? Pizza. Together we watched his favorite sport on TV via the World Series. The next morning we traveled to the Greyhound station where he was reunited with A., I then helped them with some immigration court matters and then bid them farewell as they returned on a bus to their new life together in Texas.

I am also collaborating with Presencia. Presencia provides tutoring, mentoring and leadership development for the children of immigrants in Atlanta’s Buford Highway Corridor. I have taken on a role of leadership development with their youth team. These leaders are 14-20 year olds and are growing up in the same immigrant community that Presencia has served for a decade. These young people may be the first in their respective families to graduate high school or attend college. This month we met at the meetinghouse and explored notions of Beloved Community and what it means to embody values of inclusion, vulnerability, and community. We hosted the team for a meal in our apartment but enjoyed the “backyard” environs of the meetinghouse during our team-building time together. I’m glad this location can be a welcoming place where, as Presencia says, “presence matters.”

Charlotte is employed as a teacher at International Community School (ICS) in Medlock Park. ICS serves 400 students representing more than 30 nationalities and speaking 25 languages. In January 2020 ICS will open a Community Resource Center designed to equip parents and families with assets and resources to help their children thrive. The center will emphasize both academic and nonacademic needs. With my background in social work and past experience as a school social worker and school/home engagement coordinator I have offered ICS my volunteer services in setting up this center. I hope to collect items for the center, specifically food, clothing, feminine and general hygiene products, paper products, infant/toddler supplies, laundry supplies, and multilingual/multicultural books.

CONNECT

A friend recently told me I had a gift of making connections. I don’t know if it’s a gift, but I do love watching the magic that happens when like-minded do-ers meet and cross-pollinate for the first time. This month has been a time for such connections.

The most significant recent connection was inviting my longtime friend, Olivia Matt Ceto, to speak at an Indigenous Peoples’ forum at the meetinghouse. It was a long First Day for Friends, but those who stuck it out expressed true gratitude for Olivia’s sharing, as an Ixil-Mayan woman, the realities, challenges and opportunities that indigenous women in her home country of Guatemala face.

Kevin and I met with representatives from Georgia Commute Options (GCO) and Georgia Interfaith Power and Light (GIPL). GCO’s mission is simple yet ambitious, to reduce Atlanta’s traffic congestion and improve its air quality. GIPL, located here in Decatur, engages communities of faith in earth care as a response to global climate change, resource depletion, environmental injustice, pollution, and other disruptions to the environment. GIPL and Atlanta Friends Meeting have partnered in the past and Kevin and I and others of the Meeting are looking to engage both these organizations to help AFM lower its energy costs and better steward the land we occupy and the watershed upon which we and our neighbors depend. This connection is just beginning.

On more trivial matters (literally) Charlotte and I have initiated a weekly trivia team at Mellow Mushroom. This has been a way for us to combine Charlotte’s love of pizza with my enthusiasm for games and our shared passion for face-to-face interactions with friends. Charlotte and I will also host November’s newcomers meal at Atlanta Friends Meeting and we hope to launch an occasional board game gathering with Friends. 

So what do I do? I play trivia, eat pizza, ride my bike, and enjoy being amongst (F)riends of all stripes, all in hopes that a more beautiful world is possible.

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