18 May 2017

Big Deal: Refugees, The Farm, And Us. When Life Has Meaning.

Big Deal/ Refugees And Us: Sakler Moo, an artist

Maria and I were talking about it all night, and again when we woke up this morning. Yesterday, in Albany, I formalized our efforts to mesh Bedlam Farm with the nearly 100 refugee children and many more adults who work with RISSE,  the Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of the Emmaus Methodist Church in Albany.

We want to support them, help them, and welcome them to our country. Their stories are among the most piercing and inspiring I have heard, and they make me love liberty and proud to be an American. They also encourage me to work hard to preserve what being an American means to be.

Maria and I are absolutely committed to this work, I have been exploring it for months, ever since the November elections politicized the refugee and immigrant experience and threatened people who have already suffered enough, and who understand freedom better than anyone I have ever met.

In America, we  seem to sometimes have different ideas about freedom. I suppose this project is  part of my idea about freedom.

Starting in July, and for every Tuesday and Thursday until September, a van load of refugee children will come to Bedlam Farm. They will see the donkeys, watch Red and Fate work with the sheep, visit Maria's studio, talk to me about books and writing and photography.

I will invite local artists and farmers and carpenters to speak to the kids, and arrange lunch visits to Pompanuck Farm and to the Round House Cafe. We will also visit Ed and Carol Gulley's Bejosh dairy farm, the closest thing a farm can get to being Disney World.

They will come in small groups until all 100 are here.  The first group will come next Saturday, Treasure Wilkinson has agreed to bring her baby goats over. I'll get some pizza from the Round House.

We will also work to help the many adult refugees who are helped by RISSE. They receive legal, language and other forms of assistance from counselors, volunteers and teachers. We discussed RISSE's need for a project and screen for classroom work, support for a carnival to help mark the end of the summer program.

Sakler Moo, pictured above is a gifted artist, he has gobbled up the art books instructional guides I have given him, if you wish to send him books that might help him with his art (he doesn't like books for  beginner children, he is past that), that would be welcome. We are looking to find a teacher nearby who might work with him to develop his art, if his parents agree. He knows how to draw.

If you know of good art books or drawing materials for young artists, you can send them to Sakler Moo, c/o RISSE After School, 715 Morris Street, Albany, N.Y., 12208. I'd love to send the RISSE kids a message about the Army of Good waiting to help them. And thanks for the art supplies and books you have already sent him.

He loves them and thanks you.

We seek to help the refugees in all sorts of ways, some involving money, some do not. I couldn't begin to list all of the good things happening without money.

But this is America, and money is a profound reality. The truth is, this church in Albany has been supporting hundreds of refugees in so many ways, they are in great need of resources to keep operating. And it would be a catastrophe for these people if they could not raise the funds they need.

If you wish, you can donate here.

"I'm hoping for the day when you can encourage people to do good in a way that does [not ]exclusively involve donating money," wrote Kristy on Facebook yesterday,  Is that really all that "good" is?"  She wrote this after we had just raised enough money for a stray cat to be spayed and given shots and hopefully move into the Mansion with the residents there.

I sometimes think the purpose of social media for me is to constantly remind me what it means to be human. And it also reminds me how many good humans with big hearts are out there. It brings things you don't want, and also things you do want.  Look at what you have done.

That's life, isn't it?

I'm afraid I found the message too disturbing for me to answer rationally, but every question deserves an answer, and I suppose the answer  is not that donations are all that good is, but they are certainly a big part of what good is, especially in a nation whose heart has turned to stone and whose resources for these vulnerable and good people have dried up. And if you read the news about federal budgets, it is only going to get worse.

My wish for Kristy is that she starts her own blog and encourages people in any way she wishes.  She may have a better idea than I have.

I imagine all of you know how to do good without instructions from me, that is not my job.  I don't ever tell other people what to do, even though I am almost constantly being told what to do. That's life too.

These people have suffered enough. I would like to help them. I do have a powerful army behind me, and I am grateful for their trust. It is astounding to me how many people you have helped, how many lives you have already changed.

At RISSE, every pen and pencil and piece of paper is a struggle, the classrooms are overcrowded and in bad repair, there are ratty fences on the playgrounds,  the main building was burned down by arsonists a week ago, the vans have had all their tires slashed, the kids and their parents have little money to spend. You would hardly believe what they need.

I hope to make a difference, and I welcome and value your help. If RISSE can't function, that will not be good for any of the hundreds of refugees who depend on them. Yes, money is good. It matters.

But let's take it one step at a time. At times, I will ask for financial help – to outfit the soccer team, support birthday parties and Saturday summer excursions, buy a projector and screen for the teachers (this will cost about $500). At times, I will share the work Maria and I are doing and that scores of volunteers and people with good hearts are doing.

One good deed at a time. Lots of people giving small donations works.  I will do the best I can for as long as I can.

This is a big deal for me, and a deep part of my relationship with Maria. It is a powerful step forward for Bedlam Farm, and our idea of the farm.

It is a continuous way of doing good without arguing about what good is. Let the left and the right eat one another up, I am moving forward with my life and I invite you to join me. And thank you.

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