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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

Time of hope, renewal

"Dear Friends, there is no timetable for happiness; it moves, I think, according to rules of its own. When I was a boy I thought I'd be happy tommorrow. As a young man I thought it would be next week; last month, I thought it would be never. Today I know it is now. Each of us, I suppose, has at least one person who thinks that our manifest faults are worth ignoring, I have found mine, and am content."

When we are far from home
We think of home; I who I am happy today
Think of those in Scotland for whom
such happiness might seem elusive;
May such powers as listen for what is said
By people like me, in olive groves like this,
grant to those who want friendship,
a friend

Attend to the needs of those who have little,
Hold the hands of those who are lonely;
Allow Scotland, our place, our country to sing in the language of her choosing that song she has always wanted to sing,
Which is of brotherhood, which is of love ."

-- Alexander Mc Call Smith

Let us raise our hearts and voices together, divided no more and indeed sing of brotherhood sing of love.
It is simply the time of year of hope and renewal.

And speaking of renewal and newness I am going to speak (or write) here of Newest Lunch. Sorry couldn't resist the pun. There is a food channel that runs, runs a program called "Diners and Dives," where the protagonist visits "greasy spoons" across America and critiques their food. Last year, around the end of the summer, they filmed Newest Lunch, and I may add it got the big high 5, totally thumbs up.

Albany Street, lower end, down by Summit Towers, the place where all the cops eat. I was there for lunch 2 weeks ago and the joint was jumping. Characters? It looked like a scene from Roger Rabbit. People standing in line, some with teeth, some with none, some with tattoos, steel teeth, heavy gold chains, nose piercings, eye brow piercings, belly button piercings, (yes I know it was winter) but there was lots of navel taking the air. Fast service, good food and the best hot dogs in town or anywhere else for that matter.

We miss a lot in this city when the area between Nott Terrace and Brandywine are verboten. Yes we talk about Bombers and Proctors and Apertivo, but the real action and down home color is right there on Albany Street, where you can listen to the police radios and watch the constantly changing scenery. Be a backdrop of this city's history and culture, visit this dive, it's better than a movie and the food -- ah the food is magnifico. Don't forget to order pizza to go, and let the oil run down your chin, I guarantee you will be back. QUEST always gets our wings and pizza from Newest.

Adopted by the Kings

And let's continue in a home-making vein. We have been adopted by the Latin Kings. A group of 12 to 14 young men who come to clean at QUEST. "You just have to call me," the leader says, "we will show up." And they do, and they clean.

They beg, borrow and steal cleaning supplies. Ixnay on the stealing part. And guess what, they have fun. They really have a great time. Inside and out they move like whirlwinds mopping, sweeping, raking -- you have only to ask and they will do it and do it well. Volunteers, just what we need. The first time our kids saw them walking down State Street they were like, "Who's that? Oh boy, here comes the issues." And I was like, "Thats our cleaning crew." And so it was they hit the parking lot, made a sharp left and lined up to shake my hand.

Did that little gesture add to my stature and respect status? You betcha! This crew just wants to prove to the community that they can bring good things to light. Sorry, I can't help myself, one bad joke after another. Wednesday March 27th CBS 6 was down to film this gathering as part of their "Good News" series. I just smile, don't you just love it.

On the other side, is the nasty bunch who dumped their household belongings in our dumpsters two weeks ago. Toys, clothes, furniture, all in ripped plastic bags in, on, and around our dumpster. And because of the rain and snow the bags split and mingled with old food and it was just plain smelly and disgusting. It's too bad because some of the stuff looked usable but no one wanted to even touch it. And our good old cleaning crew wrapped their hands and arms in plastic bags to make that dumpster and the area around it sparkle and shine. We had to get another pick-up, though, $50 a pop. And wasn't that a big ouch. We were actually shoveling trash with snow shovels. Please folks do not gift us again with your remainders and unmentionables. Next time I will call the cops.

We started a bucket drumming class on Tuesday. Buckets and shakers and sticks and laughter. Come on by, it's free, and here is where we could use some trash picking with elan. We need some buckets, and percussion stuff feel free to donate and join in. Never a fee here. You have to be 12 and older. Older means anyone else, adults especially wanted. It is call and responsive and wouldn't it be wonderful if we had a youth side and an adult side. I would like to take it to the streets when (and if) it warms up. Is it spring yet?

"For years I suffered in the snow and frost. Now I am startled at pussy willows falling."
-- Carl Sandberg

I am going back to my cleaning group because during the writing of this blog CBS 6 came by and filmed. At least 12 Kings showed up in full regalia meeting with the photographer in sweats, Gerry Gretzinger in a suit and natty top coat and me dressed in a lime green flourescent rain coat.

The team of CBS 6 stayed for 1 hour and 49 minutes and left in awe and tears. We all had such care and respect for each other. My adopted cleaning team spread out and got to work, one young man pointing to our downstairs floor said, "This is floor, my responsibility, I clean it every time I come." They bring their own cleaning supplies and utensils, even buying their own plastic gloves. They keep close watch over each other, chiding their fellow workmen when they feel like they are not cleaning up to their high standards.

They spoke with heartfelt emotion about teaching kids not to grow up and turn out like them, and to strive for more than the Bethesda House or the City Mission. People forget that children join gangs to have a family .One of the hand-outs for Latin Queens is that this group will give you a sense of belonging. And so it does, good or bad, so it does.

Last week one of our staff broke up a series fight between two 11-year-olds at a school bus stop. He (the staff member) reports these cheeky little guys were throwing up gang signs everywhere. We know these two children and are working with their parents to set up a truce. But their school just suspends them or sends them to remedial school, this is not an answer. Some of these gangs are race related, Latin Kings are usually Hispanic but I know a few black males who have joined also.

The TV stuff and I talked about how the kids felt about being welcomed into QUEST after being turned away at so many other places. I responded with, "We don't ask for last names here, and we have no dress code and an open door policy. Children here are judged only on their behavior once they walk inside our doors. No one brings in weapons, the closest we ever had was a penknife, which I still took away from a child. No drugs, no alcohol, no one even smoke cigarettes. And I get a pretty good picture of their lives because I pick them up and drive them home. So to those who give grief about QUEST's supposed, illegal activities I say-"

"I see nobody on the road," said Alice. "I only wish I had such eyes," The Kings remarked in a fretful tone. "To be able to see nobody! And at that distance too!"
-- Lewis Carroll

And now the "piece de resistance." Helen Quirini -- God Bless You! Still out there -- still looking out for QUEST and hopefully guiding and watching for the next five years. Some $5,000 for a Women and Children's program. Isn't that what we do, isn't that who we are? Even in death your strength and generosity is still all embracing. I hope you are up there somewhere with Gail George and Fred Kindle having a cold one -- Fred likes beer and oysters, Gail likes good wine, and you, well whatever you drink I hope it is smooth and warms your old bones.

I miss you, and all the others who believed in me and in QUEST. Still going, after all these years.

"It is so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun. To have lived light in the spring. To have loved, to have thought, to have done."
-- Matthew Arnold

In this time of the renewal of light, let it shine on us and reveal the goodness in our hearts.

"This is your world, it is your feast---
Look at the greatness of the whole thing.
Look! Don't hesitate -- look!
Open your eyes. Don't blink, and look, look, look further."

-- Chogyam Trungpa

Blessed holy seasons to all!

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