I was invited (twice––in 2013 and last month) to Breakfast With Obama, in Washington, across the street from the White House. I went twice. Here’s what happened:
First of all, you may notice that in the selfie above, he looks a little more––ah––two-dimensional than me. He looks kind of flat, in fact, (which is what annoys some people: why is he so reasonable and not more emotional and reactive? Seriously––you want a touchy-feely President?).
I took that photo in a shop years ago, but it kind of expresses how I feel about Obama, who often seems to be the only adult in the room.
And on this subject of the Alleged Obama (I’m calling him that because––duh!––whatever we think about him is just a projection, an unproven allegation of our consciousness, and most particularly, our feelings about ourselves, and about our power, authority and leadership), the big larf in my two visits to D.C. came from the reactions I got from people when they heard I was going: Most people were interested, and then at one extreme there were a few whodoesshethinksheis, sibling-rivalrous comments like “How did you pull that off, Katie?” (spoken with a mildly ironic tone), to the other extreme: the enthusiastic response of my favorite gay bookseller, who said he was practically coming in his pants at the news. And what was I going to wear (see below)?
And, btw, I’m not going to say much in this article about “how I pulled it off,” except that I was invited by someone who loves me, and who knows I speak many languages, including Spanish and Christian (which IS a language): it was a prayer breakfast with a group of people who support the rights of Hispanic immigrants, which I’m passionate about (I lived in South America, and I’m an immigrant myself).
For more on Obama, and his adult, longterm, “I don’t care what people think“ approach, check out this New Yorker story of him appearing on a radio program called WTF, in which he describes what it’s like being President, and this video of him at the funeral of the people murdered in a church in Charleston, in which he attempts to sing Amazing Grace.
Unfortunately, that mind-numbing tragedy of the church shooting happened the night before our 7 am breakfast, and Obama was busy dealing with that. So he didn’t come. Nancy Pelosi came, and was nice. And the previous time I went to the breakfast, Obama couldn’t make it because he was delayed in Europe, signing an anti-nuclear treaty. I was glad that he was doing that, since I grew up in a home that was devoted to the anti-nuclear movement. So both times I went to see him, he was doing much more important things.
When I heard, at the breakfast, that there had been a shooting in a black church a few hours earlier, I felt as though I was going to pass out, and not just from jet-lag. I was surrounded by church-people, many of them people of color. But what really unravelled me was the video of the woman who has fostered more than 800 Hispanic children. Why? Because their parents were deported, leaving them orphaned in the United States!! I saw footage of the children crying at the loss of their parents. Did you know this was happening? Are you not also an immigrant in this country? Right in our midst are thousands of Hispanics, many of whom have come here to escape poverty, war or starvation. Do you talk to them, or remember to engage with them as though they are as important as Facebook friends?
The charity sponsoring the breakfast has as its motto “The Least Of These,” which is a quote from Jesus, who told his disciples that he had come to them, hungry, and they did not feed him, homeless, and they did not give him shelter, in need, and they had turned him away. “WTF, Jesus,” they responded. “We would NEVER do that to you. You are a VIP!” He replied: “I’m talking about all of humanity being precious. Black lives matter, and so do Hispanic lives and every single creature... inasmuch as you didn’t take care of THE LEAST OF THESE, you didn’t take care of me.”
On the positive side, things are changing. When I went to the other breakfast, in 2013, I sat next to a man who works with Bono in one.org, a powerful organization that is using starpower, internet power and all the tools of the modern techie era to end world hunger. He quoted some encouraging statistics to me. And this time my table-mate was a guy who goes into the mountains of Guatemala and saves kids from starving.
It’s not that all of us have the life purpose of doing hands-on work with world issues. The least of these will always appear before us, as a friend or stranger in need (or just in need of us not judging or gossiping about them) in a way that is perfectly designed to open our heart, if we want our heart opened. Trust me, there is NO DOWNSIDE to opening your heart to the point of unbearable vulnerability. In fact, it’s a very abundant gesture of consciousness, that positions you in the fast-flowing center of the river. There is always an opportunity to pour more generosity, more kindness, more actual sacrifice of what we cling to, towards a friend or a stranger in need. To “give them our shirt.” Forget your gospel of “Not Being Codependent.” Try flowing generously without thinking so much about your own bottom line and notice what flows in through the back door to support you flowing generously forward.
And now for the important part: what I wore, including the all-important shoes:
“It would be better if I didn’t have the chairman of the energy and environment committee in Congress holding up a snowball as if that was proof that climate change wasn’t happening,” Obama on WTF radio program.
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