Thursday, April 26, 2018

Become a Champion for Housing Homeless Seniors in Pasadena in Five Minutes or Less

We have a golden opportunity to house most of the homeless seniors in Pasadena on city-owned land that was purchased for affordable housing 15 years ago, and is now finally being considered for possible use as a site to house homeless seniors. This was the recommendation of the Housing Department since permanent supportive housing for the homeless is needed and fundable, but some members of the City Council are proposing that the property be sold for commercial development, thereby forfeiting a million dollars in HUD funding. We feel that "mixed use" of this property--commercial development plus permanent supportive housing--is a "win-win" for the City. If you agree, please join our campaign by taking action. It takes less than 5 minutes to write a letter but it can make a real difference. 

1) Write the city council using the template provided below and attached. Pick ONE talking point and either cut and paste it or use your own words. Also ask some of your friends to do likewise. It takes only a couple of minutes to send this kind of email and it's very important at this juncture to let our city council members know how you feel. Send your letter to, Please cc me at so we can track how many letters have been sent. Thanks!

2) Meet with your Councilmember. Call me (626-375-1423) or email me about setting up an appointment. Please let me know who your Councilmember is and when you can meet.

3) Canvas the neighborhood, collecting signatures. Let me know when you're available.

4) Come to City Council meeting to speak when this comes up for a vote. Invite your friends and neighbors.

Sample email to the Pasadena City Council
Dear Honorable Mayor and City Councilmembers,
I want to commend Vice Mayor John Kennedy for bringing to the attention of the City Council the South Heritage Square Property, which is a designated “affordable housing asset.” I also want to thank William Huang for his study showing that most needed and most easily fundable use of this property is for permanent supportive housing for homeless seniors
I support mixed use of this property, using the first floor for commercial development, and the top two floors for supportive housing for homeless seniors.
[Say something about yourself, for example: “I am a retired school teacher who lives in Councilmember Gordo’s district, or who attends church or works in Pasadena.”]
Choose one of the following talking points and either cut and paste it or express it in your own words. Send your email to


1 Does this project have the support of the community in Vice Mayor John Kennedy's District? During a community meeting in March, 80% of the community supported using this site for affordable housing and 80% opposed using this site only for commercial development. See Kennedy’s survey results:  Religious leaders and churches have signed over 400 letters in support of homeless housing for seniors, and two prayers vigil on the property attracted 20 and 60 people, many from the nearby neighborhood. The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, which comprises most of the African American churches in this area, supports using Heritage Square South for homeless housing.   We have gone door to door surveying businesses and neighbors and most were willing to sign petitions of support, which were sent to the City Council. 
2 Why use this property for homeless seniors? Supportive housing for seniors is the best option for this site because it is located on a busy commercial intersection, which is not ideal for families. Furthermore, families need more parking than do seniors and that would reduce the number of individuals who could be served, and also limit mixed use commercial development (restaurants require lots of parking). This site is better suited for seniors because it is close to already existing senior housing, a CVS, grocery stores and restaurants, and medical facilities (easily accessible by bus). Supportive housing for homeless seniors is fundable because of Measure H and other sources. Finally, the need is urgent, with the number of homeless seniors (those over 50 years of age) increasing 65% in three years, from 153 in 2016 to 253 in 2018. (Of these, 174 are unsheltered.)
3 What was the city’s intention for Heritage Square South? The North and South Heritage Square property was originally purchased in different parcels over a period of time by the City with HUD, inclusionary, Redevelopment, and other funding for affordable housing, starting in 2004. For political reasons, it was bifurcated in 2011 with the understanding that Heritage Square North would be used for affordable senior housing, and the southern part primarily for commercial use. When the state ended Redevelopment, however, the City changed its tune. The state wanted the City to sell the property and give them the proceeds, but the City argued that the property was an affordable housing asset and would be used for affordable housing. The state allowed the City to keep the property for this purpose. The City’s intention for this property has shifted over time, but it is currently designated for affordable housing. If it is sold for commercial use, the City must use the proceeds for affordable housing and will forfeit over a million dollars in HUD funding.
4 How can we be sure that those housed in Heritage Square South supportive housing will be from Pasadena? The City can give preference to Pasadena residents and to homeless seniors, of which there are 174 living on the streets of our city. It is likely that the vast majority of those housed will be homeless Pasadena seniors, many of whom will likely be from District 3. Almost all the current residents of Heritage Square North are from Northwest Pasadena. 30% are African American, 25% are Hispanic, 22% are Caucasians, and 18% are Asian.
5 If the property is mixed use, including supportive housing, will it generate local jobs?  The City can require local hires for the supportive housing portion of the project. For Heritage Square North, 20% were local hires, and 60% of materials used were purchased locally.  Supportive housing would provide economic benefits to the local community in ways that commercial development could not guarantee. Heritage Square left $ 6 million in the City because of its policy to provide local contracts and supplies. The beauty of Heritage Square North is not a stigma, but an asset to the community.
6 If the property is developed for commercial use, will it generate local jobs? Unlike city funded projects, such as affordable housing, there is no requirement for commercial developers to hire local contractors. Nor are commercial ventures required to hire local employees. Therefore, commercial development would not necessarily provide any jobs for local residents nor would there be any requirement for material to be purchased locally.
7Does it make sense to have mixed use on corner lots? The corner of Los Robles and Orange Grove has mixed use on a corner lot and that’s true of most corner lots in Old Town. It actually makes more economic sense to have mixed use than to have a one-story commercial property, like the CVS on the corner of Orange Grove and Fair Oaks.
8 Is this area saturated with affordable housing, and does that preclude developing it for homeless seniors?  It is not good policy to oversaturate an area with affordable housing, but exceptions can be made when there are community benefits. For example, when Mr. Gordo wanted to remove an unsightly liquor story from his district, he was able to use inclusionary funds to purchase this site and build affordable homes even though this area was saturated with affordable housing. He crafted a special exception which the Council approved, stating that off-site inclusionary projects can be built when a property is declared blighted and a legal non-conforming use, such as a liquor store.  This exception allowed the Summit Grove property to be built even though there was an oversaturation of affordable housing in its vicinity. This law was recently changed once again (the “and” was changed to “or”) so that the homeownership project on Lincoln and Orange Groove could be built on a property with a gas station.
9 The need for supportive housing for Pasadena’s homeless residents is growing rapidly. The number of unsheltered homeless residents in our City increased 33% in the past year. The number of homeless seniors has increased 65% in the past three years.  Since there is no supportive housing in the city pipeline, this number of homeless residents will undoubtedly increase over the next few years. There is a need to create multiple homeless housing projects, both short- and long-term.  Reducing our homeless population by providing housing will make our community safer and better for business.
10 What are the financial benefits of housing homeless seniors? Homeless seniors are likely to cost society more money in health care than younger and healthier homeless residents. Given the City’s budget crunch, it makes more economic sense to house homeless seniors in facilities with services provided by the County’s Measure H funding than to let them sicken and die on the streets, with various agencies in the City footing enormous medical bills. A Rand showed that housing homeless residents has saved the county $1.20  for every dollar spent on housing and supportive services.[1] According to an Economic Roundtable study, the cost of dealing with a homeless individual in LA County is around $5038 per month, vs $605 per month when they are provided with supportive housing. These costs increase with the age of homeless individuals. Based on this study, we can estimate the cost to Pasadena of having 69 homeless seniors living on the street to be around $4,171,464 per year. Housing them in supportive housing would run around $500,940, a savings of $3,670,524. This would be a huge financial benefit to our City. [2]

[1] “The financial impact of the program [supportive housing] could be dramatic, according to the report, which analyzed the experiences of 890 participants. The cost of services provided to those in the program fell by 60 percent in the year after they found permanent housing (from an average of $38,146 in the year before to $15,358 the next year).That drop is partially offset by the cost of operating the program (participants receive $825 per month housing vouchers and case management services worth about $450 per month). But, even with those costs factored in, the study found a 20 percent decrease in county expenses related to those residents.”
[2] These statistics are taken from the Economic Roundtable website and date back to 2009.

Encountering the Revolutionary Jesus and the Inward Teacher on the Road to Anywhere

[This is part of what I shared during my men's group, Brothers on a Journey, regarding my "Journey with Vulnerability."]

I grew up as the child of working class immigrants in Princeton,NJ, an elite town known for its university and the Institute of Advanced Study, where Einstein spent his final days. My family was working class and neither of them graduated from high school. Most of my classmates belonged to the Princeton elite—many of them children of college professors or at least college-educated. We owned a home but not a car and I was keenly aware that I belonged to a different world from that of most of my friends and classmates.
I was also different intellectually. From an early age I preferred books to sports and was always fascinated with ideas, which led to my being placed in honors classes. I had an aptitude for languages and loved poetry.
As far as religion was concerned, I was never a believer. I was baptized Greek orthodox, and raised in the Episcopal church, but I became an agnostic at age twelve or so after reading H.G. Wells' Outline of History. I was appalled by the holy wars, witch hunts, and pogroms of Christians described in this book. Religion made no sense to me.
In retrospect, I realize that in spite of, or maybe cause of, my agnosticism, there was a God-shaped hole in my life that I tried to fill with poetry and eventually with mind-altering drugs. I became fascinated by Timothy Leary and Ram Das when they came to Princeton to lecture--or maybe a better word is evangelize--about psychedelic drugs. During my last two years of high school I tried every drug from morning glory seeds to LSD, from hashish to speed.
This path led me to my getting busted in my senior year of high school—I spent a terrifying night in a jail cell and became a cause celebre because of my outspoken defense of drugs. Some wanted to make an example of me, and and have me locked up. But thanks to the intervention of sympathetic college professors who believed in me, I eventually went to Boston University instead of prison.
I began as a Classics major but didn’t really have the discipline or the inclination to devote the rest of my life to dead languages, much as I love to read and resuscitate them. I hung out with rock musicians and jazz buffs and druggies, often imagining myself as a character in a novel I would someday write.  In my junior year of college I was accepted into the poetry workshops of Anne Sexton, where we were encouraged to write about the dark places in our souls. I had plenty of material to write about!
During my last two years at Boston University, I was editor of the college literary magazine and found my calling as a poet. Like many creative people, I led a crazy life, moving from apartment to apartment for financial and other reasons. I was also living under the shadow of war and my father’s impending death.
When I was in junior high school, my father became disabled with osteoarthritis, which his doctor treated with steroids. These potent drugs helped with the stiffness and pain, but had very serious side effects. He often ended up in the hospital, sometimes in the emergency ward, because of these powerful drugs. This complicated my relationship with my father and my mother.
My father died around the time of my 21st birthday, before I was supposed to graduate. Instead of going to my graduation ceremony, I went to my father’s funeral. My father’s death was long expected, but when it came, it was no less devastating to my family and to me. My mother worked as a seamstress and lived off my father’s SSI, which also helped me through college. Fortunately, the mortgage was paid off so my mother and ten-year-old sister weren’t in dire financial straits. As a would-be poet, I had no interest in making money and couldn’t help out in this regard. The best job I could find was washing pots at Sears—which I did just to earn some money to go traveling.
I wasn’t much emotional support for my family since I was barely able to take care of myself.  My final semester of college was a stressful, depressing time for me. I had no idea of what to do with my life, other than try being a poet. I got some encouragement Anne Sexton to pursue that path, but no clear ideas of what to do. Everything I’d read about poets convinced me I needed to live a free, poetic life. To take risks, be vulnerable, have adventures, and then write about them.
I didn’t go to my graduation ceremony, but if I had, I would probably felt as Bob Dylan did. In 1970 he received an honorary degree from my hometown Princeton and wrote a song called “The Locust Sang” which spoke to my condition. I even memorized the words:

Oh, the benches were stained with tears and perspiration
The birdies were flying from tree to tree
There was little to say, there was no conversation
As I stepped to the stage to pick up my degree
And the locusts sang off in the distance
Yeah, the locusts sang such a sweet melody
Oh, the locusts sang off in the distance
Yeah, the locusts sang and they were singing for me

I glanced into the chamber where the judges were talking
Darkness was everywhere, it smelled like a tomb
I was ready to leave, I was already walkin’
But the next time I looked there was light in the room
And the locusts sang, yeah, it give me a chill
Oh, the locusts sang such a sweet melody
Oh, the locusts sang their high whining trill
Yeah, the locusts sang and they were singing for me

Outside of the gates the trucks were unloadin’
The weather was hot, a-nearly 90 degrees
The man standin’ next to me, his head was exploding
Well, I was prayin’ the pieces wouldn’t fall on me
Yeah, the locusts sang off in the distance
Yeah, the locusts sang such a sweet melody
Oh, the locusts sang off in the distance
And the locusts sang and they were singing for me

I put down my robe, picked up my diploma
Took hold of my sweetheart and away we did drive
Straight for the hills, the black hills of Dakota
Sure was glad to get out of there alive
And the locusts sang, well, it give me a chill
Yeah, the locusts sang such a sweet melody
And the locusts sang with a high whinin’ trill
Yeah, the locusts sang and they was singing for me
Singing for me, well, singing for me.

The images in this song captured how alienated and uneasy I felt 1971—“darkness was everywhere, it smelled like a tomb….the man next to me his head was exploding…” This is how the world seemed to me, and many others: dark, crazy, out of control. Even though most American opposed the war, and 12,000 protesters were arrested in a May Day demonstration in DC, the  Vietnam war continued to rage and Nixon was still telling us there was light at the end of the tunnel. (Many of us believed this was an oncoming freight train, and we were right.)  It was a dark, crazy time. And the locusts were definitely singing for me. I wanted to escape to someplace sane, somewhere far away from Princeton and New England and my sick, war-crazed country. Instead of the Black Hills of Dakota, I decided to go to Canada. I had broken up with my girl friend, so I decided to go on a solo roadtrip. Just like Jack Kerouac, the writer who inspired the beat generation (and would-be beats like me) with his novel On the Road. Ever since reading his book, I had dreamed of going on the road without a road map, just as Kerouac wrote:  “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.” 
I didn’t ride the rails, like Kerouac. I got a ticket for the TansCanadian Railroad, which allowed me to stop off anywhere and get back on the train, just like a Eurail pass. I hitchhiked to Montreal with two books I had never read, but wanted to study—the Bible and James Joyce’s Ulysses. I memorized long passages from both books during this summer.
I should make it clear that I wasn’t a draft dodger—my draft number was very high—but I definitely wanted to escape from the American war machine. That’s why I went to Canada: it seemed like a peaceful place and the Tran-Canadian railroad seemed like Cat Stevens’ Peace Train “bound for glory.” As soon as the train started off, I felt a sense of boundless joy. I was on the road to nowhere and everywhere!
I had many adventures on this train, which was filled with students and hippies. I loved having the freedom to get off and on wherever I pleased. No agenda, no timetable. Just doing whatever felt good. As we traveled through the prairie lands, I met a farmer’s daughter who invited me to visit her in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, so I got off at Saskatoon, the capitol of this province, not realizing how this would change my life forever.
I fell instantly in love with this city of a quarter of a million souls, located in the middle of an endless prairie,  with a river running through it, a slow winding river that I spent hours sitting next to and contemplating.  I loved the city’s slow pace and relaxed attitude. In New England, if we liked something a lot, we’d say it was “dynamite.”  In Canada, they said, “It’s not half bad, eh.” Saskatoon was not half bad. Which was good enough for me!
As I walked aimlessly around the city, feeling foot-loose and free, I found myself drawn to a church. Walking to the altar, I saw an open bible and started to read it. I don’t remember what I read—all I know it was the words of Jesus touched my heart, and I began to cry. I hadn’t cried at my father’s funeral—it would take years for me to be vulnerable and grieve. But experiencing the power of Jesus’ words, I felt my heart open up in a way I had never felt before. I knew these words would revolutionize my life, and the world. And I knew that they were true.
I left the church changed but perplexed. I had almost no experience with religious people or communities I knew there was a power greater than myself—a power called “God,” but I didn’t know what this meant. I began to have inner dialogues with this Being. I called this “experimenting with God.” Looking back, I realize that I was being vulnerable to the Spirit. I was trusting this inner voice to guide me, just like George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, who as a young man became a wanderer and seeker, much like me. Fox was looking for answers but no one could help him. Finally, he sat down by a fireplace and medicated. After a while, he heard an inner voice telling him, “There is even one, Christ Jesus, who can speak to your condition.”  His heart leaped for joy, and he knew that there is an inner teacher we can turn to for answers to life’s most important questions. I was coming to the same realization.
I went down to Moosejaw and reconnected with the farmer’s daughter and her family and had a wonderful time. I even had a chance to work in the fields, driving her Dad’s combine. Surrounded by an ocean of wheat, we had our meals outdoors, formed a circle and prayed. I had never prayed before meals before—it was something my family never did. But praying under such circumstances made perfect sense. Surrounded by such abundance, how could we not express gratitude to the source of all this amazing life?
I could write a book about my year living in Canada, mostly in Vancouver, growing my hair down to my shoulders, wearing a Canadian mounted police coat that made me look like Sargent Pepper, writing for underground newspapers, and hitchhiking up and down the Coast and across the country. I was penniless, careless and free. Utterly vulnerable to the Spirit. I explored all kinds of religious paths, from the Bahais to the Hare Krishnas, from the Bible to the I Ching, learning and appreciating the amazing diversity of faiths and religious practices.
I had a memorable experience that convinced me that God was real. I was hitchhiking to Eugene, Oregon, to write an article for a magazine called the Bullfrog and got dropped off in Corvallis, a college town. It was late and I decided to go to the campus to find a place to “crash.” Looking like Sergeant Pepper, I usually had no trouble finding students who’d take me in. But this time was different. People seemed nervous when they saw me. Finally someone said, “We’ve had a series of murders of coeds on this campus. That’s why we’re up tight.” He told me to go to the Catholic Newman Center and see if they could find me a place to stay. I went to the Center, which was like a private home, but it was midnight and no one was there. I  decided to sit down on a comfortable chair, put up my legs and snooze. Before falling asleep, I prayed: “God, if you exist, and I’m pretty sure you do, take care of me.” Then I fell asleep.
An hour later I was awakened by a bright light on my face. I opened my eyes and saw two police with drawn guns pointed at me. Words came to me that had to have originated from a Higher Power since they never would have occurred to me. I looked at the police, smiled and said calmly, “Man, am I glad to see you.”
This was not the response they had expected. But I spoke with such calm and genuineness they put down their guns and invited me to their police car. They started asking me questions. Do you have ID? No, I responded. Do you have a job or address? Not really. What do you do? I’m a writer. What do you write about? Politics, religion. I’m just following the Spirit wherever it leads me. After a while, they decided I was harmless and offered to take me to the home run by Jesus freaks. They took me in and gave me a bed for the night. The next morning, an earnest young Christian asked me if I knew the Lord. I replied, “I sure do. He’s a good friend of  mine.”
While I was befriending the Lord, my teacher Anne Sexton was also seeking God. She wrote a book called “An Awful Rowing towards God,” about her religious quest. It was a very dark journey and she ended up committing suicide in 1974. So did another poet I admired, John Berryman. He died by jumping into the Mississippi River in 1972. The more I reflected on the lives of poets, the more I questioned whether I wanted to follow this path.

What are Quakers Doing to Promote Peace and Justice in Southern California Spring 2018

FCNL launched its new Advocacy Team focus “Averting War with North Korea.” Friends from at least four monthly meetings in So Cal have taken part in this effort—Claremont, Santa Monica, Orange County and Orange Grove. The Pasadena Advocacy Team works with a number of other groups on this issue, including Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP), ReconciliAsian, Unity and Diversity Council, Montrose Peace Vigil, Women’s League for Peace and Freedom, Ban the Bomb—LA, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Office of the Americas, Progressive Asian Network for Action, Veterans for Peace, and Orange Grove (Quaker) Meeting.
The Pasadena Advocacy Team has made 5 lobby visits this year, published 3 letters in newspapers, and is organizing an event on Sunday, May 6, at Orange Grove Meeting called “Give Peace a Chance in North Korea” (see flyer).
Orange Grove Meeting has approved a minute on averting war with North Korea which it would like SCQM to consider (see below).
Friends at Orange Grove Meeting have formed an AFSC Social Change Ministry group that meets bimonthly with members of the Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church (see Arthur Kegerreis). This group is focusing mainly on immigration issues and members have been visiting Adelanto Detention Center (see Edie Salisbury). They are also making plans to organize a “Know Your Rights” and Free Legal Assistance workshop for immigrants in Pasadena.
Santa Monica Meeting continues to be concerned about income inequality. (See minute below.) To learn more about this concern, see this blog consisting of timely and relevant articles pertaining to income inequality and how to address it:
Santa Barbara Meeting’s retreat in the fall of 2017 focused on George Fox’s prophetic witness and how it is applicable today. The Santa Barbara Friends Meeting Peace Earthcare and Social Concerns committee was involved with Truth in Recruitment, advocating for school policies limiting recruiter access to students, providing students with alternative information and options to military careers (Kate Connell). We also participated in ongoing protests against missile testing at Vandenberg Airforce Base and against nuclear war at various 'pop-up vigils in Santa Barbara. We continue to advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty and prisoners’ rights. Some Friends are also involved in Vandenberg prison visitation (Jim Robertson). 
Some Friends in Ojai, San Diego and La Jolla have been involved with the Golden Rule, a “peace ship” that Veterans for Peace launched two years ago. See
 For a number of years Orange County Friends have had a project of supporting the nonprofit Human Options, which serves women and children who are victims of domestic abuse.  Friends pick up and deliver food from the food pantry each week and help with their holiday gift exchange.  OC Friends also visit detained immigrants in the OC prisons.
Recently OC Meeting affiliated with Friends of Orange County Detainees (, which provides visits to people in ICE detention in O.C. county jails and also has a transition program through which volunteers meet asylum seekers upon their release (on parole, on bond, or with asylum), provide them with clothing and toiletries as needed, help them with travel arrangements, and get them to the bus or airport.  
Lawrence Alderson reported that some Friends in OC Meeting are interested in establishing a prison ministry, visiting with a person known to them through an attender and who would welcome a program of visitation, ministry and support. He is looking for like-minded friends in the area who have experience with this and can assist this group and provide pointers to resources that would be useful. The prisoner his group is planning to visit is currently at Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, CA, so any specific knowledge about that facility and doing prisoner visitation for ministry and support in a Los Angeles Sheriff's Department facility would be greatly appreciated.
If we have omitted any monthly meeting activity or concern you would like to have shared, please contact Anthony Manousos at We are also planning to have monthly conference calls for So Cal Friends with peace and justice concerns. Please contact me if you'd like to be part of these calls.

Minute of Concern About Averting War with North  Korea
Approved by Orange Grove Meeting,  April 8, 2018

Led by Spirit and faithful to our Quaker Peace Testimony, Orange Grove Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends supports the FCNL Advocacy Team effort to avert war with North Korea by urging Congress to pass S 2047 and HR 4837,  bills that would prevent the President from launching a preemptive attack on North Korea without the authorization of Congress. Given that our President and the leaders of North and South Korea have agreed to meet, we urge them to do so without preconditions since preconditions have been a stumbling block to past negotiations. We also support and encourage all those who are working to build bridges of understanding and trust between North and South Korea. We are called to love those who may seem to be our enemies, and to find ways to turn them into our allies and friends.

Action: To share this minute with Friends everywhere, through our website, and by sending it to Quarterly and Yearly Meeting. We also authorize the clerk to write a letter to our Senators and to our Representative Judy Chu, thanking them for their support of these bills, and encouraging them to make public statements regarding the need for a diplomatic, rather than military approach to the conflict on the Korean peninsula. It was said by Jesus that “those that live by the sword, perish by the sword.”
Minute on Income Inequality from Santa Monica Friends Meeting

16-12-04: Santa Monic Meeting approves the following Minute on Income Inequality, Economic Inequality and Social Justice, noting our desire to share it widely, and acknowledging the discernment involved in preparing it:
Friends (Quakers) believe that there is a divine spark in everyone, and on that basis we believe in the equality of all people. That belief leads us to create community among ourselves, foster community in the broader society and promote equal justice and equal opportunity.
We find that the laws, tax structure, and regulations of our society now disproportionately favor and reward the few, while disproportionately impoverishing the many. Wealthy special interests have used their resources and access to influence politics, the courts and regulatory agencies to redistribute wealth to enrich themselves at the expense of the middle class and the poor, who now experience declining wealth, declining earning power and declining levels of education. Our society now experiences rising poverty, homelessness, mental illness, drug addiction and environmental degradation. These factors in combination result in the weakening of our democratic institutions and our social fabric. We also find that this inequity is reversible, with correction of the tax codes, regulations, laws, and political reform.
We call on Friends to teach themselves and others about the truth of economic inequality. We call on Friends, people of other faiths and people of good will to recognize the need to change our tax code, our regulations, and our electoral processes to restore our social safety net and our educational systems to create a more just, healthier and more sustainable society based on principles of equality and respect for our fellow human beings. We call on Friends, people of other faiths and people of good will to work to reduce income inequality in our society by supporting actions that redistribute the fruits of our economy more broadly and equitably in order to build a stronger, more just, more rewarding and more stable society.
Economic inequality is at the root of many of social ills we now see. We seek to reduce income and wealth disparity, while recognizing that success in doing so will not cure all social ills. Our goal is to reduce economic stress in our society to the point that people of modest means may lead happy, productive lives and realize their God-given potential. We seek to restore the social fabric and respect for the inherent dignity of all.
Our goal reflects our Quaker testimonies on simplicity, equality, peace, community and integrity.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Lady Godiva the Social Justice Advocate and other Journeys with Vulnerability

To prepare for sharing with my men's group my "Journey with Vulnerability," I talked with my spiritual director Dennis about being led to organize a campaign to house homeless people at a city-owned property in Northwest Pasadena. I felt I needed to do something dramatic to get media attention. “I slept at Memorial park to see what it felt like to be homeless and wrote about it on my blog,” I said. “I got a terrific response. I am wondering if I should do something more dramatic, like fast or get arrested.” God, it turned out, may have an even more dramatic idea, one that would make me extremely vulnerable.
After my session with Dennis, I took part in Vespers at the little chapel where the Community of Divine Love holds worship services. There Dennis read from the daily readings from a book called “Peacemakers.” This week the Peacemaker was none other than Lady Godiva.
I never imagined that Lady Godiva was a social justice advocate. I thought of her more as an exhibitionist, or the patron saint of chocolate. But her story is fascinating. She lived in England during the 11th century, right after the Norman Conquest, and her husband was a greedy landlord who was taxing his people beyond their endurance. Not unlike some of the landlords in Pasadena. The peasants protested and she sympathized with them, begging her husband to lower their taxes. He refused and she persisted, until finally he said, “OK, I’ll lower the taxes if you ride naked on your horse at high noon through the village.” He never imagined a noble woman would do such a thing, but for the sake of the poor she “made herself vulnerable”—those were the exact words in this reading—and went through the village naked on her horse. Her husband finally got the message and lowered the taxes.
This story may lack an historical basis, but it contains a nugget of profound truth. If you want to serve God and help the poor, you sometimes need to make yourself vulnerable. You need to put aside your privilege and be real and take risks. It’s not easy.
I told this story to my wife and explained that some Quakers in the early days went naked “for a sign” However, I reassured her that I don’t feel led to follow their example, and she breathed a sigh of relief.
I am grateful that members of my men's groups isl willing to take the risk of sharing their journey with vulnerability. Many have talked about painful and difficult times in their life, times when they felt vulnerable and broken and somehow survived and rebounded. Resilience seems to be the watchword of this amazing group of brothers. As a result of this honesty, I feel I know them better and feel closer to them.  According to psychologists, vulnerability refers to a person's openness and willingness to risk being hurt emotionally, a willingness that enables us to love and be loved and to accept the emotional risks that go with it.
As someone who has survived a painful divorce and the death of a spouse, and yet is still willing to accept the risks of being married a third, and I hope, final time, this description of vulnerability speaks to my condition. Reflecting on the death of his dearest friend, the poet Tennyson penned the immortal line, "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." As finite human beings, we are all vulnerable, whether we acknowledge it or not. By confessing our vulnerability, we also affirm our humanity. The poet David Whyte (2015) captures this existential truth compellingly:

"VULNERABILITY is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding under-current of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to be something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.”

To be human is to be vulnerable, to swim in an ocean of darkness hoping against hope for a glimpse of light or dry land, but why confess the times when we have felt most vulnerable? Why does this make us feel better and closer to one another? 
All my life I’ve loved and studied the literature of ancient Greece and Rome and I can assure you that ancient Greeks and Romans did not spend time talking about their vulnerability. This would not have made sense to Plato or Aristotle or a Roman stoic like Epictetus.  The first instance I can find of someone confessing his vulnerability is the apostle Paul. He calls himself the "chief of sinners" and the "least of the apostles."  He confesses that he is unable to control his worst impulses. "The good  I would do, I don't do, and the evil I don't want to do, I do." He admits that he persecuted Christians and was even complicit in the death of an innocent, godly man, the martyr Stephen. Finally, he reveals that he had a blazing vision and heard the voice of Christ on the road to Damascus and was blinded and incapacitated for several days. Talk about vulnerability! But it was through this painful experience of being blinded by the Light that he finally broke through his self-righteous shell of invulnerability and became a loving human being, broken and recognizing his need for God's grace.
Augustine of Hippo
Paul's confession became a model that Christians have followed ever since. Augustine of Hippo, a city in North Africa, wrote one of the great masterpieces of spiritual literature, his confessions, as if he were speaking directly to God and we are overhearing this intimate and revealing dialogue. A compulsive womanizer before becoming a Christian, he is perhaps best known for his line: "Give me chastity, O Lord, but not yet." I know that feeling very well! I also resonate with Augustine's realization that "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." Augustine confesses his vulnerability before God and before us, how in his blindness and weakness he hurt himself and others, how he was deceived by vain philosophies and pride, and how he was finally redeemed by God's love and grace.
Quakers and others confessed their weaknesses and shortcomings in spiritual journals, some of which, like John Woolman's Journal, have become classics. In the twentieth century, Thomas Merton's "Seven Story Mountain" carried on the tradition of Christian confessional autobiographies, revealing in intimate detail his spiritual journey with vulnerability. 
Not all confessional writing is religious. The French philosophe Jacques Rousseau wrote his "Confessions" not so much to express his religious faith, but to explore his complicated personality and life. Rousseau was keenly aware of, and interested in, his inner contradictions: He wrote: "it is as if my heart and my brain did not belong to the same person."  I can relate to that! Since Rousseau, many secular writers have also written their autobiographies in the confessional mode, sharing dark secrets in creative ways. My teacher Anne Sexton made a literary career out of describing the most vulnerable times in her life, such as her attempts at suicide, and was part of a group of New England poets that are sometimes called "Confessional."
It has not been easy for me to confess my vulnerability in my writing or in my personal life until recently. I grew up in an immigrant family where we acted out our feelings, but didn't reflect on them in healthy ways. In my teenage and college years, I expressed my complicated feelings mainly in my poetry and other writings. 
I am grateful to be part of a men's group where I feel it's safe to share my journey with vulnerability. I decided to explore some times in my life when I felt vulnerable and open to the Spirit. I am in part inspired by the intriguing theme of this year's annual Quaker gathering: being vulnerable to the Spirit. What does it mean to be "vulnerable to the Spirit"? What times in our lives have we felt most vulnerable and open to the Spirit? How were we changed by these experiences?
These are questions I think well are worth pondering and meditating on.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Pasadenans Join National Effort to “Give Peace a Chance in Korea”

May 6, 2018, 4:00-6:30 pm
Orange Grove (Quaker) Meetinghouse, 520 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA
Contact: Anthony Manousos,    627-375-1423

Pasadenans are "giving peace a chance in Korea" by engaging in advocacy work and organizing a community event on May 6 that will highlight efforts to bring peace to the Korean peninsula. Six months ago, when prospects for peace in Korea seem remote, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (the oldest faith-based lobby in Washington, DC) launched a campaign to avert war with North Korea. This Quaker advocacy organization engaged local groups across the country in this campaign, including activists in Pasadena and Los Angeles. Sue Park-Hur and Hyun Hur, Mennonite pastors living in Pasadena and founders of a peace group called ReconciliAsian, took part in these lobbying efforts along with many others. They urged elected officials to support S 2047 and HR 4837, bills that would bar the President from launching a first-strike preemptive attack on North Korea without Congressional authorization.
 Congresswoman Judy Chu and Senator Feinstein have signed on to these bills, and Senator Harris has also called on the President to use diplomacy, not military threats. As the recent “Peace Olympics” made clear, North and South Koreans want peace and normal relations, not war.
Hyun Hur has visited North Korea several times for humanitarian purposes, and so
has Shan Cretin, former director of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which is also involved in peacemaking efforts with North Korea. On Sunday, May 6, from 4:00-6:00 pm  Hyun and Sue Park Hur along with Shan Cretin will talk about how to avert war with North Korea  at Orange Grove (Quaker) Meetinghouse, 520 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA  For more info contact
“Most American do not realize that the US has never signed a peace treaty with North Korea and refuses to do so,” says Hyun. ““We need real negotiations, not more threats. Let’s give peace a chance.
 “AFSC has helped farmers in the DPRK increase their output of corn and rice,” says Cretin, whose organization received the Nobel Peace Prize for its relief efforts in 1947.  "Even more important, we have been able to learn first-hand about life in North Korea and connect North Koreans with people and ideas from outside their country.  Person-to-person engagement is key if we are to help “pariah states” re-enter the global community.”

This event is sponsored by Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, which was started after 9/11 by religious leaders such as retired All Saints rector George Regas with the slogan "religious communities must stop blessing war and violence. Other sponsors include  ReconciliAsian, Unity and Diversity Council, Montrose Peace Vigil, Progressive Asian Network for Action, Ban the Bomb—LA, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Office of the Americas, Veterans for Peace, and Orange Grove (Quaker) Meeting.

Picture above is in the office of Representative Judy Chu. left to right: Maile Plan (Judy Chu's aide), Hyun Hur, Kit Bell, Edie Salisbury, Kwanghee Park, Jochen Strack, Yul Hur, and Sue Park Hur, Pat Wolff, and Anthony Manousos.

Hyun Hur and his wife Sue were born in South Korea, a country that experienced the deadly aftermath of a war in which at least 1.2 million Koreans were killed. During this bloody conflict from 1950-1953, the U.S. dropped a total of 635,000 tons of bombs, including 32,557 tons of napalm, more than during the whole Pacific campaign of World War II. Almost every substantial building in North Korea was devastated as a result. North Koreans remember all too well that the US unleased “fire and fury” on their nation, and are fearful that it could happen again. That’s why they feel that nuclear deterrents are their best defense against US aggression.
The psychological damage caused by this war and the division of the nation into two parts persists to this day. Many Koreans in the South have been afraid even to mention that they have family members in North Korea since it could cost them their jobs. They cannot send letters to their family members in North Korea. They must send letters to friends or relatives in the US, who then forward their correspondence to North Korea.
Hyun confessed that he was taught to distrust and hate North Koreans in school and even in his church. He and his wife both remember drills and curfews to prepare for anticipated attacks by North Korea.
Hyun’s attitude changed when he became an Anabaptist, a branch of Christians that include the Amish, Mennonites and other pacifist Christian sects. He rejected war and the idea that North Koreans were his enemy.
“I wanted to be a faithful follower of Christ,” he explained. “’Jesus told us to ‘love our enemies,’ I don’t consider North Koreans to be my enemy and I must love them as Jesus commanded.”
Sue became a peacemaker as a result of the L.A. Uprising when her family was targeted by African Americans because they owned a small business. Mediators came into her community and she learned conflict resolution skills which she and her husband now teach.
“I learned to be a mediator and bridge builder from an early age,” she explained. “As a child of immigrants, you end up playing the role of bridge between two worlds. I would interpret for my parents and even help them to understand legal documents.”
She also learned to fear North Korea and was shocked when her aunt went to visit relatives in North Korea.
“It seemed crazy to me,” said Sue Park. “Why would anyone want to go to this scary place?”
Her views changed when she became involved with a church whose pastor encouraged his congregation to pray for North Korea. Soon she and her fellow congregants were praying for reunification of her country, a dream that she hopes will some day become a reality.
She and her husband pastored Mennonite churches, raised their family and taught peacemaking skills.
“Someone asked us, ‘Why aren’t you applying your peacemaking to North Korea?” said Sue.
Taking this question to heart, Hyun and Sue began sending shoes and other needed materials to an orphanage in North Korea. This gave them an opportunity to visit these sites on a “verification tour” to make sure that their donations were received and properly used. Hyun went to North Korea three times, in 2013, 2016, and 2017. Only 800 Americans visit North Korea each year on tourist visa.Others visit for humanitarian purposes.
These trips were eye-opening for Hyun.
“I realized that North Koreans were human, just like me,” he said. “We speak the same language, enjoy the same foods, and joke around together. When we sang a favorite Korean folk song together, we were in tears.”
Hyun took his son on his second trip, and his son was surprised that the North Korea landscape was in color, rather than gray scale, as he had imagined. He was also excited to see North Koreans playing sports like soccer, just like normal people.
Recently Hyun and his family joined a dozen others visiting the offices of elected officials like Senator Harris and Congresswoman Judy Chu regarding bills that would prevent the President from launching a preemptive attack on North Korea without Congressional approval. Congresswoman Chu along with 65 other Representatives and 8 Senators support such bills. Senator Harris has signed onto a letter telling the President that it is unconstitutional for him to launch a first strike against North Korea. For Sue and Hyun, these visits were an exciting taste of what American democracy is all about. They were thrilled to be part of a nation-wide campaign started by the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker advocacy organization started in Washington, DC, in 1943.
The American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker humanitarian organization which received a Nobel Prize for its relief efforts after World War II) has worked in Korea since 1980. It coordinates projects with four cooperative farms, the Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Kye Ungsang College of Agriculture of Kim IL Sung University to raise productivity and implement sustainable agricultural practices in North Korea. 
These efforts have been hampered by President Trump’s travel ban. Hyun and Sue were unable to travel to North Korea, as planned, this fall.
These small but not insignificant peacemaking efforts should not be minimized or dismissed. During the 1980s, “citizen diplomats” from the US and other Western countries traveled to the Soviet Union and helped change the political climate, which led to the end of the Cold War without bloodshed. Hyun, Sue and their fellow activists have faith that their efforts will eventually lead to a similar end of the Korean War and current conflicts.