It’s been a busy Fall. Now that the original 25×10 storage unit is gone, I don’t have to spend all my free time driving out there, sorting, purging, and making manic runs to Salvation Army. Instead, I’ve been putting my free time to use with a different sort of give away.
For 17 weeks now, I’ve been giving away free pie every Wednesday in a city park. It all started with (now Senator) Elizabeth Warren’s “Factory” speech. When she said, “If you build a factory, you moved your goods on roads the rest of us paid for, your workers were educated in schools the rest of us paid for,” I agreed. I wanted to put those ideas in a form that was a little friendlier, a little more accessible. So I made pie.
I wrote a mani”feast”o. In it, I explain how even though I bought the ingredients and baked a pie, I don’t consider it mine. I didn’t plant the apple trees or harvest the wheat or churn the butter. I pointed out all the people who had helped to make the pie possible, and how I’m happy to share the pie with anyone who has less pie or no pie.
I called my little project “occuPIE” and I dove in.
17 weeks later, we’ve been in the local paper a couple of times, we’ve had donations of supplies and money, and we even had some adorable children from a local elementary school come out to help.
I watched as people approached our table, curious but skeptical. “What’s it cost?” they would ask. “Nothing,” I would tell them. “It’s free. It’s a revolution.” We started seeing familiar faces come back week after week, always talking about how good the pie was, occasionally throwing in something about how we were doing the Lord’s work.
I thought about Dad a lot when we were out there. Dad, who taught me not to be afraid of someone just because they looked different than I did, or because they had a criminal history. Dad, who had his clients come over to the house and treated them like human beings when the system was telling them they were unworthy and unwanted. Dad had an ex-hooker drive me to Tae Kwon Do lessons and he had felons putting a new roof on the house.
I thought about Dad and all of his stories that I will never be able to verify. Dad at Woodstock? Maybe. Dad marching with Che Guevara? Maybe.
I thought about Dad and the things I knew for sure about him. He worked for equal housing access. He taught history and street law in the inner city. He marched in the annual Gay Pride parade and fought against transphobia. On the whole, he mistrusted white men his own age, and sought out friendships with people from different religions and different countries.
As I watched my little pie project grow, I started looking at the original Occupy movement and their latest branch, Strike Debt and the Rolling Jubilee. They’re raising money to buy medical debt for pennies on the dollar, the way collection agencies are able to, and then they pay it off. The debt is purchased in big bundles, and there’s no way to know who’s debt is in each bundle. Last night they had a telethon and they crossed the $250,000 mark, which gives them over $5 million dollars of purchasing power.
I thought of Dad, again. As a lawyer, he helped people file for bankruptcy so they could start over. He knew first hand that medical debt is often what pushes people to bankruptcy. He saw families crippled by multiple illnesses piling up on top of lay-offs.
I think he’d be pleased with these new revolutions.