Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Velcro Faces

Vintage House Senior Center, Sonoma, California, USA

Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016

"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." ... The Beatles, The End

This essay, Velcro Faces, is the ninth in a group of nine written on Thanksgiving Day:
  1. The Friends Of The Landmark Forum In South Africa
  2. Simple Things
  3. Full On You
  4. Regular Guy
  5. No Line
  6. Orchid Leaves
  7. Service: The Same Game Played In A Whole New Way
  8. Coming From Love
  9. Velcro Faces
in that order.

I am indebted to the infirm and the homeless and the senior citizens of Sonoma County, California who inspired this conversation.

Photography by Ryan Lely

Courtesy Sonoma Valley Sun
Vintage House Senior Center, Sonoma, California, USA
I eschew the popular notion that it's better to give than it is to receive. That's bon mot  thinking which blurs distinctions. Giving is one thing. Receiving is clearly something different. But it's not merely that the two are different. It's that as a complete human being, you have to be able to give generously when it's appropriate to give, just as completely as you have to be able to receive graciously when it's appropriate to receive.

Twice a year each year all day on Thanksgiving day and Christmas day, I participate in a group of volunteers cooking dinner for around three hundred infirm, homeless, and senior citizens (actually anyone  is welcome) in Sonoma county over the Mayacamus mountains which divide Sonoma county from Napa county, where I live. I first awakened to the opportunity volunteering is, participating in Werner's Holiday Hospital Project.

If you're going to volunteer with us, make sure you reserve your place early. That's correct: "reserve"  your place early. Leave it too late, and there may be no room for you, such is the avalanche of offers / requests from people to volunteer. The fact that we have to turn away  scores of people who want to volunteer, is one of the heartwarming aspects of this: it underlines how much people want to give ie want to contribute.

In the morning we prepare full turkey dinners with all the trimmings, which are packed into delivery bags and taken into the community by teams of volunteer drivers, to the infirm and the elderly who are unable to leave home. In the afternoon we repeat the performance for people who are able to travel and attend our full sit-down dinner. It was while volunteering at this year's Thanksgiving sit-down dinner that I really got (I mean let in)  once again how much people appreciate it when we give.

Dinner was prepared. Tables were set. A long line of people stood outside the dining room waiting to come in and sit down. I happened to pass the doors when they opened, and people began pouring inside. So I stopped and stood there, welcoming them, shaking their outstretched hands, accepting their thanks (sometimes "Thank You!" / "You're Welcome!", sometimes "Thank You!" / "No, thank YOU  for letting us serve you!"), looking into each of their faces, being with them, taking all of it in.

Every face tells a life. Every life tells a story. Every smile tells of anticipation, of appreciation. Many have gray (no, white)  hair which some haven't combed (or forgot to) yet are resplendent in their Sunday best. Some walk laboredly yet determinedly alone. Some hold on to their partners' arms for support. Some shuffle with walkers. And in front of each of them is their sit-down Thanksgiving dinner we've prepared for them. You can tell the generosity of it all touches them deeply. I see it in each and every face I look into. And each and every face I look into, looks back into mine so for an eternal moment out of time we're one, inseparably together, like velcro.

When it's over, many have left. But a few still sit at the tables with their friends and new found friends, talking and sharing happily as we clean up around them. "More pumpkin pie?" I ask, "More coffee? You don't have to leave, you know.". For some, that's the best news they've heard. "Really?"  they ask, unable to contain their joy.

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© Laurence Platt - 2016 Permission