”Love me when I least deserve it, because that’s when I need it most.”
This morning I served breakfast at Glide. Tomorrow I will do the same. Glide serves three meals a day, 365 days a year to the homeless and working poor of San Francisco. Their food lines often extend around the block. Glide is a fascinating place. I have never satisfied my reflections on its presence. Glide serves the “least of these…” This morning I was the in coffee room where the disabled persons take their meals. It’s a people who attract “insulting.” I was laughing as someone was complaining about being insulted. These people live the word, “insulting”. But they also hold on to their ego with mighty resolve. Most will give you a look like you aren’t doing a good enough job bring them free, hot meals. Most carry a strong sense of entitlement which is weird characteristic for being dependent on Glide for their meals. It is a a lot of things… Theirs is a life of disenfranchised social status, meaning the system of rewards, consumer relationships, public options, mobilities, amity, access… all very much illude them. Their powers are extemely limited. Their consciousness is concerned with the appetites in a very narrow way – the three “f’s” I’ve heard them called: fucking, fighting, fixing – by “fixing” I mean getting high on drugs. Their population is heavily dependent on narcotics. Drugs are the one medicine that offers complete temporary release from the hell of their circumstance. The feeling of “love” or “peace” is rarely experience for these people. Paradoxically, I believe they are the leaders of the new Tenderloin. I believe in them. I believe in the power of God to heal, to love them when they deserve it the least and need it the most.
The condition of Glide’s clients is often referred to as a complex of biological, psychological, and sociological forces. For Glide’s clients suffering from addiction the biopsychosocial models inform therapeutic approaches and progress. Glide is insistent on adding the category – “spiritual.” I have no idea what they mean. Their terms of faith and resistance are completely secular. In many way’s Glide has turned it’s back on God. “God” is barely at Glide. If by “spirituality” they mean experiences of synchronicity, feelings of elatedness often equated with the “religious experience” all these are covered by psychology broadly – transpersonal etc. I am in fact prejudice toward AA’s insistence on God. But I digress…
I would very much like to discuss how the institution of Glide itself can be interpreted as a biopsychosocial event. Glide is a body. It is a mind, and it is bound to networks of social relationships. It’s people manifest its psychology; they also constitute its body beyond the mere walls of Glide. Glide as a social event is an arm of the state. It fulfills the duties of a failed state. It also complements the state by sustaining and containing forms of poverty within the Tenderloin district. Glide is the 17 million dollar foundation that provides the largest free meals program in San Francisco, offers free health care, recovery groups, a women’s center, a walk-in center that meets basic needs and schedules shelter reservations. Glide’s body extends into its clients as they feed off the donations of San Francisco’s middle and upper classes. Their bodies fuel the continual reinvestment of Glide’s identity. Without the poor, Glide, in its current state…would not exist. Glide is the capitalization of altruism for those middle and upper classes.
Glide represents the fulfillment of the Social Gospel. This is the main reason I am interested in Glide. Despite all my theories about Glide, which are important, the fact remains that Glide impresses me when it tends to the “Least of these…” This was the command Christ gave his followers. Glide the church has survived, even thrived, as it transitioned from a Church into a Social Service Institution. But, the power of the church wanes. The church brings in about $500,000 in giving and its influence over the Foundation extends about that far. The Glide Foundation on the other hand boasts the large numbers – the 17,000,000 annual budget.
My concern in the present is whether serving the “least of these” still looks like a 17,000,000 budget. For some reason I don’t thing that’s what Christ had in mind. Many of the parables where about managing money, being prudent. We are to give, but we should not enable. I believe Glide past that threshold (mark another tipping-point) about 7 years ago when I arrived. Just a hunch.
The psychology of Glide in the present belongs to one woman, Janice. Cecil’s revolutionary heart is barely audible over the Foundational machine that exists today. Cecil was the heart. Today the heart remains within the Ensemble. Janice is the mind. The mind systematizes and manages, it yields strategy. As Cecil’s strength wanes so does Glide’s powerful heart. The heart icon of Glide is not lost in this narrative. The heart icon is Glide’s collective psyche attempting to compensate for the over powerful mind. This paradigm extends throughout Western society. The Glide Foundations hyper-mental, still astounding accomplishments over the last 40 years, fueled by the heart of Cecil now operates out of balance with the heart. It casts a shadow the heart cannot remedy at present.
I can’t wait to see what God does. God is true to us. I wait for the dream of God, for inspiration. A dream, this power… is Heart power… for glide and the Least of These…