Responding to

“Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect.” 

  Margaret Mitchel l
What does it mean to be "cautiously optimistic?"

With so many challenges facing our communities at the moment, should we be optimistic or pessimistic about our future? Can our communities survive the challenges we face and learn enough from the experiences they give us that we won't have to repeat them?

I've talked about this before but I believe it's important to recall that, when Kitchen Angels started, it was in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, an AIDS diagnosis was a death sentence. Typically, anyone who was infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, faced a pretty bleak future. There was limited treatment and virtually no social services for people struggling with the disease. Most were left to fend for themselves, relying on friends and families to help where they could. With appropriate nutrition playing such a vital role in surviving the disease, organizations such as God's Love We Deliver in New York, Project Angel Food in Los Angeles and Project Angel Heart in Denver (to name a few), sprang up. In Santa Fe, it was Kitchen Angels.

These organizations came about because people believed that there was both a need to help individuals struggling with a terrible illness and a reason for optimism - that with the right kind of support, those individuals could survive. Our goal was to keep people as healthy as possible for as long as possible and help them survive the disease.

Today, HIV is no longer a death sentence. And the organizations that were created to address the needs of AIDS patients now provide support to a much broader group of people, not just those living with AIDS. As someone who lived through those dark days and saw the fear and despair we all felt, I'm confident we can successfully weather our current crisis and actually come through it better, wiser and more compassionate than we were when it started. It'll take work and it won't be easy, but it can be done.

I was asked recently what I hoped would come out of the pandemic - what would be different. After thinking about it for a while, I came to the conclusion that I hope people will become a bit more thoughtful - especially about their relationships with themselves, with their loved ones, with their friends and families, and with their communities. I also hope that, with that greater thoughtfulness comes an increased sense of respect for each other. When respect is the container in which we build and maintain our relationships, disagreements no longer possess the destructive power they seem to have at present.

Use of face masks has become a major flashpoint across the country, even though the science is growing that they are effective at slowing the spread of the virus. Perhaps they serve as a convenient surrogate about which people can become angry rather than acknowledge the fear that most of us are feeling. Wearing a face mask is certainly something over which we each have some control. Yet, in a world that feels completely out of control, the requirement to cover our nose and mouth when we're out in public is apparently too much for some to handle. "I have rights," a friend recently shared on her Facebook page overhearing while in line at the grocery store. Her comment: "So do I."

The point is, when someone wears a face mask these days, they're actually saying they care enough about other people that they're willing to deal with a bit of inconvenience themselves. The choice isn't about enduring an infringement on their freedom, it's acknowledging their role in supporting other people's wellbeing. It's about the social contract. As a New York State ad campaign reminds people, “When you wear a mask, you have my respect. Because your mask doesn’t protect you, it protects me.” 
So why should I feel cautiously optimistic when it feels like so much of our world is crumbling around us?

I think it's because I've seen how people can unite to overcome despair. I've seen how they can work together to address the source of that despair and inspire hope in each other. That's what happened with the AIDS crisis in many parts of the world. That's what Kitchen Angels did, and continues to do, in Santa Fe.

I'm cautiously optimistic because the pandemic is affecting everyone across the entire planet, not just small, isolated groups. Everyone has a stake in the outcome. I'm cautiously optimistic that eventually we'll recognize we're all in this together. When we're in the same lifeboat, it doesn't do me much good to say, "The hole's on your side of the boat. You deal with it."

Much of the American self-image is built on the notion of "rugged individualism" - with enough force of will, any us can overcome any challenge and that we can be totally self-reliant and independent from outside assistance. The reality is that it takes the support of others to overcome the kind of challenges we're currently facing.

I believe the work we do at Kitchen Angels is a constant reminder of the inherent optimism each of us possesses, even though current circumstances may be hard. Margaret Meade said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” T he Kitchen Angels family is one such small group of thoughtful, committed citizens. We can support each other in making sure each of us keeps the others safe and we can role model for others how to do the right thing to combat the spread of the coronavirus. As a group, we can make sure that one outcome from our collective experience is that our thoughtfulness and respect for each other continues to grow.

 To each of you and the entire Kitchen Angels family, thank you.

In gratitude,
Thank you for your vigilance. We want you to stay safe, healthy and informed.
If you want to return to volunteering . . .

. . . please first ask yourself if you are willing to adhere to our required risk-mitigating protocols throughout all parts of your day, and not just while at Kitchen Angels.

In particular: 
  1. Am I able to work a full shift wearing a face mask?
  2. Can I hear well enough from six-feet away if the other person is speaking through a face mask?
  3. Am I willing to work a different shift than the one I previously worked?
  4. Can I commit to showing up to my shift on-time and without canceling at the last minute?
  5. Can I adapt to a new environment and new routine?
  6. Can I reliably communicate with the Volunteer Coordinator?
  7. Do I feel safe being back in the public sphere?

If you answer "NO" to any of these questions, you're not ready to return. If you're not sure, check with Lauren.