Archive for April 2007

Sharon 4

April 28th, 2007 — 8:58pm

I plan on taking Sharon (see previous posts) to lunch next Friday with my children, Matthew and Jack, 7 years old.

I asked Sharon where she wanted to go and she said McDonalds. My sons will be thrilled, as that, for them, is a rare treat.

I can’t say I’m not a little nervous.  I’m taking my kids out to lunch with the homeless woman I met on the street a few months ago. But I tell myself to trust my instincts and just see what turns up. It might be a memorable experience for them. And for me too.

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Sharon 3

April 17th, 2007 — 6:33pm

I saw Sharon again today. I brought her a bag with what I hoped were useful items: a warm wool sweater, slippers, shoes, some scarves. My sons had also taken two dollars each in quarters out of their piggy banks to give to her. But all that paled next to the note that my son Matthew wrote to her:

“Dear Sharon,

I hope you have a long, wonderful life, with good food and a warm place to sleep.


He drew a picture of a house, with one person giving a gift to another. In front of the house was sand and ocean.
She stared at the picture and didn’t speak for a moment, then told me to hug my boys for her.

I told her she was an inspiration to me. That I would not have her grace if I were living under the same conditions. She told me she thought I would. I told her I thought not.

Then she said, “you never know how kindness will affect the world. It’s like dropping a pebble in a pond, it ripples out in ways you may never guess or know.”

She’s right. I don’t know. I’m not sure it matters. There’s so much sadness and suffering in the world, it seems inhuman to close your heart, shut your eyes, and just go on your way.

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More About Sharon

April 16th, 2007 — 6:07pm

I haven’t posted for a while — first I was out of town with my family for Spring break, then came back to work, slammed with deadlines.

I saw Sharon again today (see March 27 post). She was sitting quietly on the corner of Sansome and Bush. I knelt down and told her that my kids wrote her a letter and asked her if she would like me to bring it the next time I saw her. “That would be so nice,” she said.

I asked her if she would tell me her story. She said she was 64, and had been homeless for years. She had health problems — 3 recurrences of cancer. She lost her job, then her health insurance, and things spiraled down from there. She also lost her husband and daughter many years ago.

She said she slept in shelters, which are really just fine, she added. She eats breakfast at Glide, gets food from food banks, and is looking forward to turning 65 in May when she can start collecting social security. She said she thought at that point she could get off the street.

What amazed me about this woman was her absolute lack of bitterness or rancor. I am fairly sure I would not have her grace if I were in her position. She seems extremely kind, as if her sorrow has somehow made her heart bigger and more compassionate. She moves me and I feel lucky to have met her.

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My Dream Dinner Party

April 1st, 2007 — 9:31am

Have you ever imagined your perfect dinner party? Last night came pretty close.

I’ve been friends with Mollie Katzen for 20 years. I met her when I was working on her book “Still Life with Menu.”  Mollie is almost exactly ten years to the day older than me, and she has always been a creative beacon in my life …(Well, if Mollie has the guts to do x,y,z, then so should I!) She and her friend Robert, a winemaker and beekeeper, made dinner for me and Scott, the documentary film makers Debra Kaufman and her partner Alan Snitow, and Michael Pollan and his wife Judith Belzer. (OK, I was a wee bit impressed with sitting next to Michael, since I write about food too, and he is a  fantastically talented, intelligent and insightful writer).

Though in fact, none of us are vegetarians, we had a full on vegetarian feast — succotash with roasted artichokes, tempeh with pomegranate sauce, a remarkable rice mold with three different preparations, and on and on. The food was so delicious that even Scott ate the tempeh, which is, to say the least, a miracle.

We tasted Robert’s wine, but to me, even more remarkable, was eating honey directly from the honeycomb his bees made that day, from flowers from Tilden Park in Berkeley.

Occasionally, life hands you great gifts. Last night was one of them. The food, the comaraderie, and combined brain and heart trust of last night’s dinner is an experience I will remember for a long time to come.

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