Enterprising souls

Pencil seller and shop assistant, Berkeley, CA.


The sign’s small print reads: “PENCILS AND OTHER PENCIL-RELATED STATIONARY SUPPLIES FOR SALE.” Taped on the front bench is some original artwork, for sale at a modest price ($25 per) by the shop assistant at right.

Recently I was talking on the phone to a friend and colleague, while looking out the front window. I told him I may have to jump off abruptly if some untoward person walks by, because my kids were out on the street selling pencils.  And we do get an untoward person or two strolling by pretty much daily, at some point or another. He chortled at what he thought was a quip at our family’s financial straits, at which point I had to say, “No. Really. They’re on the street selling pencils.”

Not that I wouldn’t have appreciated some extra discretionary cash during this challenging but very intriguing, dual-working parent, dual-self-employed and not-a-one-of-us-getting-healthcare-costs-covered-from-our-work period. But long ago, in a fit of parental largesse, I decided the scratch they make from their sidewalk sales is their own.  No no: I’ll not accept congratulations for that, it’s just the way I am.

The pride I felt in her selling stationary supplies, however, was eclipsed by my pride in what she did with the proceeds this past Sunday.  In its emotional fulness, it is her tale to tell, and she’s not sure to whom or when she’ll tell it, but I’ve got leave to say the following: she took this money and bundled it up with the previous two years’ worth of  lemonade sale profits and some sundry allowance money, and then bought $42.50 worth of sandwich-making supplies, made 40 sandwiches, bagged them with a half a bannana and a cookie, and distributed them to 39 homeless folks (one guy wanted 2, one for now and one for later) on the streets of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, led with love and care by the cofounder of the Faithful Fools, a Tenderloin street ministry.  Behind her every step of the way were Mama and Grandma (who has done theater work with the Fools since around about when they began).

The whole thing? The girlie’s idea. Originally she wanted to bag up all her money and give it directly, as cash, to as many people as possible. But Grandma’s years with the Fools taught her that food, lovingly shared, is way more helpful. So yes: she may appear to the untutored eye to be a wee entrepreneurial capitalist. But this, my friends, is not your mother’s entrepreneurial capitalist.


6 thoughts on “Enterprising souls”

  1. You have brought into this world a new being. This being will show us the way to be real. She will lead us into the streets and minister to the downtrodden.

    No matter what or where, she will not be stopped.

    I love the way you are bringing up your kids; thanks very much for the way you live.

    • Or, as Kahlil Gibran would say, one each of “the sons and the daughters of life’s longing for itself” chose to come through my beloved. And we are doing the best we can, given our various seen and unseen limitations (unseen only by us; they’ll surely tell us about them eventually). But thank you just the same.

      I credit this impulse in her to many things: first, her large heart, which we can take little credit for (came here with it; all’s we’re doing is working hard never to diminish it). Also, the fact that she lives in a city, and sees who she sees as she walks its streets with us. Which, I’ll grant you, we never speak ill of, at the least, though after many years of city living, I can’t say she sees us consistently offering them our generosity. So, again, I go back to the large heart she came here with. Finally, I very much credit her grandmother, who spends every Wednesday with her, and who has spent a lifetime as an artist and a social justice worker, legendary in her own right (if doctoral dissertations, scholarly chapters and footnotes, and a biographic entry in an encylopedia of feminism counts), and is still, at 76, making whatever change she can. This trusted caregiver could speak out of comprehensive personal experience about the lives of people who become homeless (few are born that way), and about how to help them the most.

      Our part in this unfolding miracle is to watch carefully, do what we can to blow on the right embers, protect what we feel we must, and then stand back and marvel.

  2. Wow, I just found your blog and I must say, this is beautiful! I hope one day, when my daughter is old enough to think this way, that we have fostered in her the ideals that you showcased here with your own! I found your blog through another blog that mentioned your “Lesbian Dad” approach. I thought I might come check it out, since I think my partner, may or may not benefit from it, we are still in the talks. 🙂 Thanks for the resource and sharing your experiences. I will be sure to come back for more!

    • Welcome, welcome! This parenthood thing is hands down, bar none, the most challenging, rewarding, growth-inducing, faith-in-humanity-restoring thing I ever did. OK, right up there with saying “Yes” when my beloved first asked me out on a date.

      Happy reading (archives aplenty), and please do have your partner even write me directly (using this contact form) if she has questions following up anything I’ve written here about my parenthood, or wants direction to other resources. Depending on my workload I can be slow to reply, but my heart & door is open. 🙂

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