"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

good stuff


I walk out the door of the condo and board the streetcar. It’s an orange one this morning. I ride about a mile, get off and then walk for ten minutes. Next I am in a forest, hiking up a trail that runs alongside a trout stream. It’s a decidedly cool morning, my favorite kind of weather: fleece vest weather.

On my walk home after my hike I go into the FOOD CO-OP. I have not been in one since two days ago, but before that I hadn’t been in one since the Willy Street Co-op in Madison, back when we were hippies. I load up on their freaking fantastic “Woman’s Vitality Trail Mix” (freaking fantastic = anything laced with chocolate chips) and continue my walk back home, eating the aforementioned delicacy. I see a sign in a window in someone’s house that says “No one died when Clinton lied.” Everyone I pass says good morning, and as I return the greeting I try to catch a glimpse of their tattoo or their cool Chaco shoes or, of course, their dog.


I open the windows of the condo to let in the cool air and get down to business in the temporary headquarters of Change the Truth (my small but mighty Portland kitchen.) I read my emails and am reminded why I love doing this work.

From Joan (young woman who is the first from the orphanage to have graduated from University and who now assists the director):

“Dear mama,

Thank you very much mama indeed I have no words to express your generosity. To us you are ‘stress relief’. I have learnt a number of issues from you:

You have taught me that ‘I shouldn’t undermine humble beginnings because a small seed always grows into a big tree’. Your coming to SMK was humble.

You have taught me that to try and fail isn’t crime, but failure to try is an absolute act of faithlessness. You have always tried to put things right where they have gone wrong.

You have taught me that achieving starts with ambition. I have to be ambitious like you because it’s good.

You have made me believe that ‘There is something good in each one of us’ That is trust you have towards people like us.

And above all you have made me understand that what brought us (SMK and CTT) together is stronger than anything that may try to pull us apart or separate us.

Your family must be proud of you.”

Next, an email from Douglas, who is being put through nursing school by CTT.

“Hi mama,

I have passed all the exams. I had a tough time during exams but I passed with Distinctions. Already I am in the second semester of the course. People at the ward are so wonderful! Thanks very much for every thing. I really appreciate you and Change the Truth, mama.”

When Melissa came back from her trip to SMK in May, she brought me a special letter and drawing from my good 12-year-old friend Nicholas (Nicky.) The drawing was a new Change the Truth logo, one that Nicky thought would work well on our letterhead and on shirts. So I made a t-shirt for him with his logo on it and sent it to him at the orphanage. Many weeks later, it finally arrived. I was then sent an email with a photo of Nicky wearing his new shirt. This photo makes me really miss him. The email containing it wasn’t in today’s inbox, but I open it every day anyway as if it is a new missive – just so I can look at his face.


It hasn’t happened yet, but what it will consist of is dinner with good friends from Kansas City who now live in Portland, followed by an outdoor screening of short documentaries made by regional filmmakers.

Not a bad day.

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