Hard Times Get Harder – Homeless Meals Cancelled

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By CJ Gronner

I am absolutely thankful every single day in Venice. I’m grateful to live in a place where our community cares for each other, for our surroundings, and staunchly supports human rights. Which is why I’m so extra bothered that this year’s Feed The Beach, a Thanksgiving feast for the homeless, put on outside at Westminster for the last several years by Nina and James Merced of The Fruit Gallery, and pot-lucked by the entire neighborhood, was cancelled. CANCELLED!

Why? Because red tape and bureaucracy appear to be more important than humanity. The LA Health Department reared its head this year (Why? Neighbor complaints? Silly rules?  General Grinch-ness?), and made it too difficult for the Merceds to overcome, with threats of fines, liability in case of someone getting food poisoning or something, seemingly impossible to get permits, and the usual governmental scare tactics. When James went to the Park & Rec to inquire about the permits, he was actually told, “It’s illegal to feed the homeless”.  Now how anyone can even get their vocal chords to vibrate in such a manner to form those words, I’ll never know.  ILLEGAL to FEED the HOMELESS?!  On THANKS – GIVING?!?  Simply appalling.

There are plenty of opportunities to get out there and share what you have with those less fortunate. I strongly encourage you to do this at all times of the year, not just when these obvious holiday times roll around, but it’s deeply sad that the uniquely Venice Feed The Beach won’t be happening, just because our society has become so scared and litigious that we’ve lost sight of helping the hungry without homes. I keep hearing Einstein’s quote in my mind these days, “Remember your humanity, and forget the rest”.  Perhaps the best advice ever.

All of this had me thinking, just WOW. REALLY?! as I did my daily beach walk the other day. It reminded me of an encounter I had a while back, rocking along the sand, totally immersed in Prince (Controversy), when I saw a Homeless Guy shuffling towards me, and in between us was a weird bird, one I’ve never seen before. It was in some kind of distress as it wasn’t taking off the closer the Guy and I got to it. It had webbed feet like a duck, but normal bird black and white body, but then BRIGHT red eye circles around beady black eyes. The Guy and I nodded at each other, and then passed on by.

A few feet later, we both turned around and looked back at the bird. He saw me turn and said something, that was drowned out by Prince. I took out my headphones and said, “Sorry, what?” He said, “I think he’s hurt”. I said, “I think so too”. We both walked back and looked closer. The bird stayed put. A wave would come and push it along the sand, one time spinning it around so hard it was difficult to watch. The Guy said, “Maybe if I push it up a little bit with my shoe it won’t get washed away?” As I was walking barefoot, I said, “Yeah, try that”. He did, and it worked a little bit, but after some hissing and craning of the neck, the bird was still not moving. “I don’t want it to peck at me if it’s sick”, said the Guy. “Yeah, me neither”, I answered. “Maybe I should go tell the Lifeguard and they can call the Marine Animal people?” We pondered that while watching some more.

The Guy said, “I think he’s exhausted from just trying to survive”. We exchanged a glance that kind of felt like, “I know how he feels”. It was an interesting understanding, and felt pretty heavy. He asked if I had any food to give the bird. I shrugged “Nope”, as I didn’t have much on, and no pockets. We stood silently for a moment, just watching the poor thing. Finally the Guy said, “I think I have a Vitamin E capsule in my backpack”. Kind of random, but it was worth a shot. Energy, maybe? He dug the pill out of his bag, and walked over to place it on the sand in front of the bird.

All of a sudden, the thing went berserk, flapping its wings and squawking like a maniac. It lifted off the ground and flew to the top of a wave, and then duck-dove under it like a surfer and was back in its element, like nothing ever happened! The Guy and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows and frowns, like “Hmm. What do you know about that?” We watched the bird swim along for a moment, making sure he was cool. Once that seemed to be established, I shrugged and said, “Well … Good Luck to us all!” The Guy smiled and said, “Yep, good luck to us all”.

And on we three went. I think about that exchange often, but especially today, as we all prepare to gather and feast for the holidays, and hopefully, to share it all. In times like these, when feeding the homeless is “illegal” … Well, Good luck to us all, indeed.

One more time … Remember your humanity, and forget the rest!

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