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Unconditional Love. Radical Inclusivity. And Doing Your Part.

GLIDE Church has a long-standing tradition of featuring voices from the community in a segment of Sunday Celebration called “I Am GLIDE.” Personal testimonies on the strength and power of unconditional love from our program participants, congregants, donors and volunteers provide what Rev. Angela Brown often refers to as “the GLIDE sacred text.” We feature these inspiring stories here when we can. Emily Cohen, Co-Chair of the GLIDE Legacy Committee, spoke to our congregation on April 29.

I grew up in Petaluma. I was raised Jewish and secular. My father is Jewish and my mother is I think what she would call a “recovering Protestant”. My childhood was good. It was safe. And I felt loved.

One thing I did not do growing up was go to church. I did go to Hebrew School but about a year before my Bat Mitzah I told my mom I wanted to be a Buddhist. I was 12. So I have always been spiritually curious. I have always believed that there is something much more magical and important to us than us. But I never believed it could be found in the walls of any church or religious institution. I never believed a church could be the vehicle for me to have a meaningful spiritual human experience… Until it was.

emily and amy volunteering
Emily Cohen (second from right) volunteering in the GLIDE kitchen with fellow Legacy Committee members.

The first time I came to GLIDE was with my father. We had no intentions beyond just checking it out. But after that service I felt like I had found something I had been looking for my entire life.

I continued to come back on Sundays ,  even when it meant skipping Sunday brunches with friends. I think it was confusing for people — all of a sudden I was going to church. “What has happened to Emily?”

But I was inspired by the message of GLIDE. Of their work for social justice and equality for all. Of unending compassion. And a commitment to serve people at the very margins — the places other religious institutions do not go.

For me, GLIDE has been a kind of mentor. It has shaped my sense of the world. Of what it means to be connected to humanity.

At GLIDE I’ve seen unconditional love through their work in harm reduction. In their free meals program. In their programs for survivors of abuse. For men unlearning violence. In their programs for children. In the Walk-In Center where someone can get a clean pair of socks and speak with a person willing to meet them where they are.

We live in a society that TALKS about being compassionate and loving your neighbor and serving and giving back. But we also live in a society that tells us every day to reject that message. To consume more and give less. To turn away from the things we don’t want to see or feel. To explain to ourselves that you are not my problem. Your suffering is your own fault. We live in a society that gives us every excuse to explain away our selfishness.

For me, GLIDE has been a kind of mentor. It has shaped my sense of the world. Of what it means to be connected to humanity. Of what it means to be compassionate. To understand that it might seem that I have nothing in common with the people sleeping outside of this church   or waiting in line for their next meal. But the truth is, we have everything in common. For someone who is privileged , that can be a painful truth to face. Because then you know you’ll have to do something. GLIDE gives me a place to recognize how privileged I am and then to do something with it.

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Emily volunteering at GLIDE’s Annual Toy Bay Giveaway, December 2017.

It is easy for people of privilege to talk about poverty. It is easy to talk about mental illness. It is easy to talk about affordable housing. Or homelessness. Or addiction. Or suffering. Or violence. Or racism. Or sexism. Homophobia. Xenophobia. It is NOT easy to work to change these things.

We have enough people in this world — and in this city — who do nothing. Who don’t give their time, energy or money to anything outside of themselves. We see this every day in the glaring inequality and disparity that we accept right here, right underneath our self-proclaimed “liberal values.”

Am I listening to the voice inside that reminds me that the men and women suffering outside are still a part of me?

Too many people believe it’s not up to them. But you are not one of those people. I know that because you’re here at GLIDE, a place that values and inspires action above everything else.

I call on the people sitting here today and the people listening at home to ask yourself: “Am I walking the walk? Am I listening and RESPONDING to the voice inside me that is trying to remind me of what it is to be human? To be connected? To love unconditionally and to give back in all the ways that I can? Am I listening to the voice inside that reminds me that the men and women suffering outside are still a part of me?

I look around this room — full of so many different types of people — in color, religion, upbringings, down-bringings, in age and gender, all here because we believe in or are curious about this idea of unconditional love and radical inclusivity. And I ask myself “am I giving enough back to this incredible place? Are you?”

GLIDE, to me, is radical because it does not wait for a better, safer, kinder future for the world. It creates that future.

GLIDE has provided an avenue to focus my energy, time and money towards something much more important than me. GLIDE has taught me what it really means to be just one person. Which is that I AM ONE PERSON! GLIDE has taught me what it means to step up and step in and say “I am somebody with something to learn and something to give.”

I use GLIDE as my vehicle because it is reflective of my values, beliefs and my desires for making this world — and our community—a better place. GLIDE, to me, is radical because it does not wait for a better, safer, kinder future for the world. It creates that future. But GLIDE can’t do it without you and me. So I’m asking you this morning to give more than you ever have. Whatever that means to you. Whether it is your time, your energy, your money. Step up. There is much work to be done.

I read a quote a few years ago and for me, it embodies GLIDE’s mission:

“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”

Being an active part of GLIDE has changed my life and I am certain it will change yours too.

My name is Emily. And I am GLIDE.

legacy committee group pic
The 2018 GLIDE Legacy Committee. Emily is pictured in the front row on the far right.

Breaking bread with Rabbi Michael Lezak, newest member of GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice

In July 2017, GLIDE welcomed Rabbi Michael Lezak to its Center for Social Justice. This position, a Rabbi at GLIDE, was made possible by funding from the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, the Lisa & Douglas Goldman Fund and generous individual donors. Recently, we spoke with Rabbi Michael about what a rabbi at GLIDE does. Answer: He bakes! 
Continue reading “Challah for Justice!”

GLIDE celebrates its thriving partnership with local eco-friendly fishing company, Pioneer Seafoods

If you’ve walked by the corner of Ellis and Taylor on any given weekday over the last few months, there is a chance you have seen a “fishy” operation taking place. Giuseppe and Joleen of Pioneer Seafoods have been hauling a truckload of fresh, local, sustainably caught fish to our kitchen on a biweekly basis, leading to the founding of a new institution at GLIDE: Fresh Fish Friday!
Continue reading “Sole Power!”

let's end family homelessness
Every Sunday in January, 11:00 am – 3:00 pm at GLIDE. To sign up, call (415) 674-6080 or email GLIDE’s Advocacy Manager, Ben, at BL@glide.org
According to the 2017 Point in Time Count, there are still nearly 200 homeless families with children in San Francisco. In a city as wealthy as ours, there is no reason why children and their parents should worry about where they will rest their heads at night.

In the New Year, we will need volunteers like you to join GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice in collecting signatures to help End Family Homelessness.
Continue reading “Eye on the Ball: Let’s End Family Homelessness”

Meals program volunteer Michael finds meaning and pleasure in serving his Tenderloin neighbors

Michael is a dedicated volunteer in GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program as well as a program participant. Originally from the Glen Park neighborhood of San Francisco, Michael had only been coming to eat at GLIDE for a week before he started to spend several hours each day volunteering to cook for and serve his fellow Tenderloin residents. A few weeks ago, Michael kindly took a moment to share some of his story with us.

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I had always heard of GLIDE, and curiosity got the better of me. I was actually waiting in line to get a meal and one of the other volunteers said, “They need some help down there,” and he asked me if I wanted to help. I said sure. It got me in the door and out of the cold, so why not? That was about five months ago. I have been coming every day since. I usually do breakfast and lunch. It’s better being in here than out there; it’s a little crazy out there. It’s a pretty rough environment.

The people that we serve is what brings me here every day—the elderly, you get kind of attached to them. I like helping them out. I feel more accomplished, like I have done some good. To be outside isn’t ideal, getting into no-good stuff—I don’t do drugs or anything, but when you are out there it’s all lonely and I try to get away from it.

“Making the best of it”

I worked for a long time as a building engineer in the city and then I lost my job, lost where I was living, lost everything else and ended up on the street. I was applying for jobs but when you get to the age part they become a bit edgy. I am 63 now, and they would rather hire someone younger.

So anyway, I am trying to make the best of it. I have an escape place I go to when it gets tight. I go down to Pier 7 on the Embarcadero and I just hang out there. It helps me relax. And when you are not looking at the Bay, you have a great view of the skyline. It’s a beautiful city; I love living here. I wouldn’t change anything. I mean, I have travelled to different places but this is home.

I also like to go to the zoo and the Academy of Sciences to relax. I have a lady friend that works at the zoo, so whenever I want to go she will give me a pass. It’s cool; I like going to check out the big cats like the tigers and lions. I think they are pretty great; I was heartbroken when they had to shoot that one tiger a few years back. I knew the person in charge of the lion house. He was pretty shook up. After that happened, he retired.

Thursday and Sunday are chicken nights and this place is swamped. It’s like the last piece of chicken they will ever see in their life. I always think, “Relax people! There is more chicken!”

When you put on the aprons and gloves and all that before working in the kitchen, you also have to put on a name tag. What I do is I change my name every day and then all the old people ask, “Who are you today?” Yesterday I was Sam Spade, last week I was Formula One driver Niki Lauda. It keeps them guessing and they like the entertainment.

Looking to the future

I have to work one more year in the trade. If I can work one more year, I can retire from the union and get my pension. See but that is the hard part, and where the age factor comes in. What I would like to do is set up my retirement and go to a third world country and spend the rest of my life there. Some place in Asia maybe and just kick it.

I still have my job certification. I’m putting out resumes still. I’m hoping one of them will bite. I do everything—electronics, fingerprints for security. I do the regular mechanical stuff such as electrical, communications and data. I have skills like welding, plumbing, stuff like that. But I lean more towards the electronic part of the industry.

I would encourage people to come down here and do volunteer work, it did a lot for me. I am a very solo person but when I see the elderly and disabled, I know I am doing something good and it makes me feel good inside too.

The great Grocery Bag Giveaway is a huge event in more ways than one. It is one of the most anticipated events of GLIDE’s holiday programming: hosted each year by GLIDE Co-Founders Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani and attended by thousands of community members, many of whom line up before dawn on streets closed to car traffic for several blocks around in expectation of receiving a free grocery bag containing all the fixings for a Holiday banquet for four. It is also a mighty logistical challenge, involving months of planning and fundraising and, on the day of the event, the pre-dawn mobilizing of most of GLIDE’s staff along with literally hundreds of community volunteers (including a ready-to-roll posse from key supporter GAP, Inc.). Finally, given the spirit of celebration that is always a key ingredient of the proceedings, the day carries an outsized impact on the holiday season for many participants (including volunteers) who might otherwise find these days hard emotionally and/or materially. Thanks to an amazing citywide team effort, GLIDE’s Grocery Bag Giveaway is huge in scale, and huge in heart.
Continue reading “Hold the Judgment: GLIDE teams up with community partners to deliver food and choice to those in need”

Heather Knight’s recent San Francisco Chronicle article “Talking to Children about Homeless” is well-done, and I thoroughly agree with the article’s two messages to keep it simple with your children and to model compassion.  As a mother raising two elementary school-aged children in San Francisco, the topic of homelessness comes up regularly whether we are we are driving to school, walking through our neighborhood, or shopping downtown. Continue reading “As Mother to Two”

By: James Lin, GLIDE's Co-Director of Human Resources and Organizational Integration and GLIDE team member since 2004.

If you’re a long-time friend of GLIDE, you know that we pack our holiday calendar with celebrations across the many communities we touch. Last week was our Senior Holiday Luncheon, the holiday gathering of GLIDE’s Women’s Center, the Old Navy Shopping Spree for children, and our Adopt-A-Family event, where the families in our supportive housing and our family programs can make special holiday gift requests.
This week kicks off with GLIDE’s Grocery Bag Giveaway Days, perhaps our largest and most logistically complex event of the year. On Wednesday, several thousand people start lining up as early as 3 am to get a complete holiday meal-in-a-bag (hey Blue Apron, don’t be jealous, come join us!). We actually have to close the whole block of Ellis to car traffic in order to make space for everyone, and at the end of the day, we will have given out over 4000 bags.
Continue reading “Grocery Bag Giveaway Days”

By Ben Lintschinger, Program Manager, GLIDE V.R.P. Engagement, Education and Advocacy

The financial challenge faced by working families in the City is greater than ever before and the holidays are never an exception. In fact, meeting their children’s needs and wishes during this season can present parents with tough choices: doting or self-discipline, saving or celebrating. It’s hard for parents to have to choose and it’s hard for children to understand because while they may be rich in love, kids see their peers and others around them receiving the shiny, new and indeed wonderful gifts we’ve come to expect. It can be a heart-ache for a family in need.
Continue reading “Old Navy Shopping Spree”