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Posts Tagged ‘charity’

Over sixteen years ago, I made one of those haphazard, following one’s desires versus common sense, maneuvers. I walked away from the world of full-time employment, full-benefits, great office, etc and wandered with rose-colored glasses into a world of mostly self-employment, cobbling together different gigs, and sometimes having no benefits at all, done so that I could indulge in the world of creativity. I’d grown up in a family of storytellers and for a variety of reasons I reached a point in my life where I wanted to spend time writing. I thought I would write a great fantasy masterpiece but what flowed most naturally were stories of the people around me, and occasionally, stories about myself. This was long before I picked up a camera but I have always been visual and so I wielded the pen like a paintbrush, sketching the world around me. I had no idea what I was doing and so every little bit of encouragement was pivotal in keeping me from giving up. As I began to submit my work, one of the first magazines to accept a short piece was the New York-based magazine African Voices. The editors were so encouraging and so supportive, and as I watched videos on its current GoFundMe page, I hear writers and artists expressing that same sentiment today. As Giving Tuesday approaches, please consider giving to an organization like African Voices. You don’t have to wait until tomorrow morning. As you can see on the GoFundMe page, every little bit helps. And meanwhile … it’s dusty … could use some revision perhaps … but here is a variation of what I wrote so long ago …

Staples1950s

my parents in the 1950s

Wait Until Morning

She sits on the edge of the bed, gazing into a large bureau mirror.  She smokes a Pall Mall or perhaps a Winston Salem.  She’s not sure.  She can’t remember if she pulled the cigarette from her purse or his coat pocket.  She can usually taste the difference but not tonight. In her mind’s eye, she sees her youngest son frowning and wrinkling his nose at the smoke.  She shakes her head at his face, then sighs as the image fades to be replaced by the items on the bureau top.  Pictures mostly and pill bottles and knick knacks from her children.  Most of the pictures and their frames are fuzzy with dust.  She is too tired to clean proper.  Only one picture shines clear in the dim light of the lamp – her  mother.

The woman looks at the picture and then at herself in the mirror.  She glances quickly away – she never liked her face – but the image remains.  Hair gray like her mother’s now, wide-rimmed glasses, skin weathered and dry no matter how much lotion she rubs on.  The bed is also reflected.  She stares at the crisp clean covers.  For the first time in 40 years, only on one side are they folded back.  She squeezes her eyes shut and clutches her stomach.  He is gone.

He bought her the scanner that sits near the bed. Fifteen years ago?  Maybe more. She saw it on “Let’s Make a Deal.”  She wanted one and he bought it for her birthday.  He always did his best to get her what she wanted.  A female police dispatcher’s voice barks from the scanner.  Somewhere downtown a tall black male is being chased by the police.  Her stomach knots and the breath catches in her thin chest.  All her sons are tall black males.  She breaths again as she remembers that her sons are at work or with their girlfriends.

Wind blows and the old house creaks.  A draft kisses her bare ankles.  “A small wood frame house” was how the reporter from the local paper described the house in his article about her daughter, on her way to college, the first one.  Her stomach clenches again at the thought of her daughter so many miles away, unreachable if she gets into trouble.

She sighs and puffs more deeply on the cigarette.  The house creaks again, and she smiles.  A junk heap, yes it was.  Their junk heap for 45 years.  Raised four children in it.  Would’ve been five if times had been better.  Two girls instead of the one.

More creaking.  She thinks of grabbing the iron poker by her chair in the living room.  The poker went with the coal stove they had in the 1950’s.  Back then, it was only used to nudge glowing coals.  Now … the neighborhood’s getting bad.  But, as she always told her children, a person might get in, but he sure wouldn’t leave in the same condition.  Hands clench at that thought, hands that have wrung chicken necks on the farm, picked tobacco, cradled babies and caressed the skin of just one man.

She glances at the phone and then the digital clock on the bureau.  Twelve hours until the hospital allows phone calls.  Then she can hear his voice.  Patient, calming, distracted if the TV is on.  She rises briefly from the bed, unaware of the hollow that she’s worn into the mattress over the years.  She turns down the light to a warm glow and then puts out the cigarette.  Sliding into bed, she draws the covers up to her chin and closes her eyes to wait for morning.

###

 

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CStaples3

I keep having an interesting conversation with a fellow in my life. He’s about the destination and I’m all about the journey. I race to destinations but when I journey I never know what I’ll discover like chancing upon this beautiful fungus with its lovely blue hue on a tree in the Middlesex Fells Reservation.  Because I am such a creative namer when it comes to labeling prints, I simply called the image “Blue.” A framed print has been selected by Metro Housing Boston, a nonprofit providing innovative and personalized services that lead families and individuals to housing stability, economic security, and an improved quality of life. This donation was made possible by The Art Connection, a wonderful institution connecting artists with nonprofits, and providing access to original works of visual art to underserved communities.

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I’ve been proud to donate works through this organization for several years. You can learn more about Metro Housing Boston and The Art Connection via the links below.

The Art Connection

Metro Housing Boston

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I was walking through Copley Square recently, past the homeless folk, and I thought of Trump and his seemingly extra million dollars he has in-hand. And I wondered would that be enough money to create a transitional housing center with an edible garden … I could see the nasturtium trailing over walls … with maybe a greenhouse and lending library and clean bathrooms with showers and staff who could help people get on a path for finding employment, health care, insurance, etc. But I stopped daydreaming. I don’t have a million dollars. Nor do I need to. Each day I learn, re-learn, and hold tight to the knowledge that anyone can promote positive, immediate change. How?

Give. Learn. Act.

Give: How many times have I written of the importance of teachers in my life. They shaped who I am and what I do. They are often poorly paid and under-resourced and that’s why I love donorschoose.org. Through this site, you can help individual teachers as they are making change one classroom at a time. It does make a difference. The site is easy to navigate. You can select classrooms near you or you can select a classroom where you grew up or you can pick a region that you know is economically distressed, e.g. a Detroit, and select a classroom there. It is a well vetted program. A little bit of money goes a long way for some of these classrooms. It is not a solution to our national education problems but it is an avenue for change on the ground level.

Learn: I’m human. I know I am  fully capable of stereotyping and judging people and places as well as anybody else. So that’s why I appreciate, as someone living on the East Coast in a major metropolitan city, chancing upon Daily Yonder, a multi-media news source about rural America. I think one of things that became clear during this past presidential election is that the U.S. is a big country. While I would love to pull a Charles Kuralt and travel around this nation, visit all of its states and territories, to learn firsthand about the people and cultures that make up America, that’s not going to happen. So a publication like Daily Yonder is essential reading to simply glimpse people and places I know little about, to learn both of their struggles and what they celebrate, as part of the American fabric.

Act: Don’t wait for someone to make change. Be the change. That’s the philosophy that came across to me when I first learned of The Philanthropy Connection. Its mission is to inspire, teach, and enable women of all generations to engage in collective philanthropy. Through extremely engaged philanthropy, members provide grants to charitable organizations that improve the quality of life for low-resource individuals and families living in Massachusetts. It’s Boston-based but similar models can be found in other communities. Or created.

And act some more: Well if you weren’t sure of my liberal biases before you will be now … buy Penzey’s Spices. Give a little Love, nurture somebody’s Soul, show a bit of Kindness at the table even if you sit with someone you disagree with. In fact what better way to get to know people then through a shared meal. And if you sign up for the Penzey’s newsletter you’ll get a sense of how founder Bill Penzey is putting his money where his mouth is, putting his business on the line by vehemently and vigorously calling out this administration and all who are trying to sow seeds of hate in this nation.

This is my short list of the moment. Good stuff is happening. We just have to seek it out. Do our parts as it makes sense. If you have a million to give, wonderful. If you have one-hour to volunteer, wonderful. It all makes a difference.

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DorcasProfile

Dorcas is one of a set of two windows purchased by William Amory (1808-1888) in memory of his parents Thomas Coffin Amory (1767-1812) and Hannah Rowe Linzee Amory (1775-1845).

WilliamAmory

ThomasandHannahAmory

Located in the north transept of Trinity Church in Copley Square, the window was installed between 1877-1878. According to the literature, both the Amory and Linzee families had long been associated with the parish which was found in 1733. Designed and executed by Burlison & Grylls of London, the window depicts the biblical figure of Dorcas, a woman of wealth, who aided those who were in need. In this case the artist shows Dorcas throwing a garment over someone beseeching her for aid.

 

DorcasMan

It is a beautifully rendered window full of drama and rich colorful detail. See for yourself when you have the chance: http://trinitychurchboston.org/visit/tours

Dorcas

 

 

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pinkbranchespouch

After making that necessary mistake of viewing the morning’s headlines, and after letting my blood pressure return to normal, I decided not to stew in negativity but to find a way to produce positivity. I decided to emulate the wonderful artist Jen Parrish of Parrish Relics. With each new jewelry collection, she gives back by donating a percentage of the profits from the sale of one pendant to a charity. The above pencil pouch can be found in my art of where store:

https://artofwhere.com/artists/wordsandimagesbycynthia/accessories/pencil-case/625020

With the purchase of this pouch, now through November 15th, 50% of the profits will be donated to a local Boston-area charity serving poor and homeless women. On November 15th I’ll provide an update on monies raised. Thank you!

p.s. The origin of the image … one Sunday I needed to walk, so I walked by the river, and these branches are what I saw.

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I think the lady meant Jesus, but in any case …

I heard her coming before I saw her. She made her way up the ramp with an awkward sliding gait, using a cane for additional support. I walked over to greet her. A small woman — a good wind could blow her down — but she exuded presence even when she wasn’t talking. Now when you enter the building where I was that day one of the first things you might see is the No Public Restroom sign, a not uncommon sight in the heart of Boston. And it was when she saw that sign that she made her declaration about God and peeing but she quickly moved on from that topic to talk about life more generally. And as the air around me became lightly perfumed by the scent of alcohol, I gently interjected to ask, “Ma’am, I see, but how can we help you today?” She seemed perplexed by the question so I added, “Would you like to sit in the sanctuary for a bit and maybe pray or something like that?” She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Of course!” Now when she went in, I did peer through the window to make sure that that was all that she was doing. She sat with head bowed and I let her be. Eventually she did come out and as I held the door for her — she was trying to coordinate handling several bags as well as her cane — she asked, “Now where’s the bathroom?”

After letting my colleague know I was going to be occupied for a while, I guided her to the restroom. It was a long walk because as she explained several times, she can’t walk fast anymore. As we came to the stairs, she held onto the railing for support. At one juncture, I took one of her bags. And all the while she talked to me, telling me of her daughters, her son out west who was buying a house where she might stay one day. As for today, she was waiting for a bus. “And I planned it just right,” she explained, “so that I have time to come here to pray and then go to the bathroom and then get to the bus stop. I got plenty of time. Cause you see I don’t like to be rushed.”

“Where are you going on the bus?” I asked. And when she said to the shelter, I asked which one and she said Pine Street Inn. I could only say, “I’ve only heard good things about Pine Street.” And she nodded.

Now by the time we make our way down the stairs, there is no railing for support and so I say, “If you need to, you can hold my arm.”

She leaned her whole self against my side and took my hand.

Resuming our slow walk toward the bathroom, she apologized, “I don’t walk fast anymore.” I said, “That’s okay.”

Eventually we made our ascent from the restroom, back up the stairs.

She said, “You’re a lot like my friend Sue. She doesn’t mind that I’m slow. She never rushes me. Sometimes she lets me stay at her place. I can take the bus there too. She’s got her own place you see. She’s the best friend I ever made at Pine Street.”

Finally back in the lobby she adjusts her bags and we agree after looking at the wall clock that she still has plenty of time to make it to the bus top for her journey to the shelter.

“What’s your name?” she asked. I told her and then I asked her name. With a big smile she said, “It’s Theresa. Like Mother Theresa. Maybe I’ll be a saint one day too.”

And then she was gone.

http://www.pinestreetinn.org/

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DSCN2352

an unlit candle waiting for its spark

… there’s a company called Usful Glassworks. Recycled glass is transformed into lovely, useful items. What’s really special about this company, in addition to its merchandise, is its founding philosphy of providing manufacturing and production experience to those who face the greatest employment barriers including at-risk youth, male and female offenders, those with mental or physical disabilities, refugees, veterans and the low-income elderly. It is an institution providing help, hope and opportunity to those who need it most. See for yourself in the following video and learn more about its future on its gofundme page:

https://www.gofundme.com/usfulglass

Additional Reading

http://builtinboise.com/usful-glassworks/

 

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Increasingly, as one watches or reads the news, it becomes clear that individual as well as collective action will be necessary to help people survive this looming long winter. These scarves were tied around the trees in Copley Square today. You can read more about the people behind this particular grassroots program to help people stay warm here: http://www.chasethechill.com/

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Courtesy of Trinity Archives

Photo of Charity, Courtesy of Trinity Archives

Charity is a stained glass window once located at Trinity Church in the City of Boston. It was designed by Frederic Crowninshield.  The inscription at the bottom of the window, barely legible in the above photo, reads “In memory of Cordelia Harmon, the friend of the poor and friendless. Died May 25, 1883.”  In an 1888 publication providing a descriptive account of the church, including of its windows, Harmon was described as “the Almoner of Trinity Church for many years, and through her good deeds was well known by all the poor in any way connected with the Parish.  The window was a gift of members of the Parish.”

Born in Maine, Cordelia Harmon (1820-1883) spent her adult life in the Boston area.  It is clear from surviving records that she consistently strove to help those who could least help themselves.  Regardless of good deeds done as an elementary school teacher, a nurse at Mass General Hospital or serving people through programs offered by her church, Harmon appears to have never turned her eyes away from the wrongs that remained around her.

One of the church-supported programs that she participated on was The Ladies’ Relief Agency.  As a part of that charity’s design, every application submitted seeking assistance was investigated, including a home visit.  Through such visits, and no doubt her work with other charities, Harmon was able to see firsthand the lack of support for those with chronic diseases, people who were turned away from hospitals, and many of whom had no family to care for them.  She would write:  “How can a man, breathing fetid air, living in the squalor and debasement that abound, where the poor most do congregate and often of necessity, feel hope or courage to rise above his condition?

Harmon imagined creating a home for those people where they could live a good life until the end of their days.  It was an idea that she would discuss with Phillips Brooks, the rector of Trinity Church.  He would help her raise the funds to open The Boston Home for the Incurables in 1881.  Harmon would work at this home until she “died at her post” in 1883.  Phillips Brooks was traveling abroad when he learned of Harmon’s death.  In a letter to his brother he wrote:

Despite his expression of not feeling well-fitted to do the work of Cordelia Harmon, upon his return to Boston, Phillips Brooks did continue her legacy.  In 1883, Trinity formed The Committee for the Establishment of The Boston Home for Incurables to raise funds to expand upon Harmon’s idea.  Funds raised helped the Home to acquire a larger facility and accommodate more patients.  It would continue to expand and refine its services over the next 130 years.  Today, the Boston Home is a respected, model institution serving nearly 100 residents.

Charity, designed by Frederic Crowninshield,

The only known surviving image of the Harmon window is a black and white photo taken in the 1920s. In the center of the image, a woman and two children, destitute.  To the left, a figure with head bowed, the weight of the world upon his shoulders.  Standing amidst them is Jesus.  And above them all, in capital letters, is the text:  Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.  The window did not survive major renovations that took place in the 1950s. The window may be gone but the memory and legacy of Miss Cordelia Harmon lives on and continues to evolve.

 

Sources, Additional Reading, Etc.

http://www.thebostonhome.org/

https://www.givingcommon.org/profile/1072657/the-boston-home-inc/

September 19, 2014 article with video: http://assistivetech.scripts.mit.edu/blog/finding-a-home/

Charity postcard with insert about Harmon available at Trinity Church Bookshop

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Boston Public Garden Street Light

Boston Public Garden Street Light

When I first read Lin Nulman’s haiku, I told her that her words made me want to paint, to capture the vivid impressions she conveyed of Boston.  I have yet to pick up a brush but I did think of her words when I rediscovered this photograph.  Her work appears in this week’s issue of Spare Change News, the longest continuously running street paper in the U.S.  Over 100 vendors, many of whom are currently or formerly homeless, purchase the papers from a distribution office for .25 and sell them on the streets of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville for $1.00.  If you’re in the neighborhood consider purchasing a copy, or making an online donation.  The writing is excellent and the stories not often told.  Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy Lin’s words below.

 

Sights of the City Haiku

Boston winter night—

streetlight caught in the glass rim

of a sun-catcher.

 

Dark birds float to a

bare tree. Underneath pages

of newspaper blow.

 

A young man reads poems

by Lorca on the train, lips

moving, body still.

 

Sky of milk and slate—

the sails below are whiter,

the river bluer.

 

Vs of geese fly east

across a violet sky, haze

above the wet earth.

 

My pages ruffle,

and the willow grows pale leaves.

They also ruffle.

 

T-shirt heat. Black-haired

boy’s block-print tattoo fills his

forearm: FORGIVEN.

 

Early autumn day.

Bronze beads pepper a bench from

a broken earring.

 

Blue sidewalk. Lights of

table candles tremble their

small constellation.

 

Lin A. Nulman is an Adjunct Professor of English at Bunker Hill Community College.  Her poetry has appeared in Black Water Review, Tanka Splendor, and the anthology Regrets Only: Contemporary Poets on the Theme of Regret, among others.

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