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Lions Roar : September 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2012 36 Fortin and Lesser, both former residents at Green Gulch and Tassajara, started HPW in 2007 to help veterans returning home from wars abroad make a positive and peaceful transition back to civilian life. The vibrant program they’ve created, first through many hours of donated time and now with Zen Center’s fiscal sponsorship, is a bright example of the ways Zen practitioners respond to the suffering of the world they live in. Zen Center has answered that call on an organizational level by creating or sup- porting programs like HPW, addiction-and-recovery groups and retreats, Prison Dharma at San Quentin, Queer Dharma, Young Urban Zen, and the Zen Hospice Project, which helped launch the country’s palliative care movement. Suzuki Roshi invited those he met to come sit with him each morning and look inside their own minds. That simple gesture, combined with the ripeness of a certain generation for medita- tion, marked the humble beginning of San Francisco Zen Center. Now, roughly 10,000 people pass through the three centers each year. In addition, the teachings are regularly offered “outside the gate”—taking the sanctuary to the students rather than bringing the students to the sanctuary. Sometimes the teachings are in the form of a hot meal. On a Thursday afternoon in April, three volunteers meet in the Zen Center kitchen at 300 Page Street in San Francisco, known as City Center. With fresh ingredients on hand and leftovers from the residents’ meals, they put together a menu of seasoned split peas with kale, brown rice, and a green salad to serve to formerly home- less residents at a new transitional housing complex, Richardson Apartments. “We don’t plan the meals,” one of the regular weekly volunteers tells me. “We just show up and see what’s available.” As we load the food into vehicles, a passing car stops in front of the entrance to the grand brick Julia Morgan building that houses City Center so the driver can snap a photograph. When we arrive at Richardson Apartments, a few hungry residents are waiting. Watching us carry in the trays of hot food, a woman asks, “Where’s the salad? Did you bring salad?” Gradually, residents file into the lounge where we’re setting up to serve. “I like this kale!” says one resident in her fifties, getting seconds of the split peas in her own take-away container. A male resident in a wheelchair returns for Volunteers from Zen Center serving lunch at the transitional housing Richardson Apartments. The food is prepared in the City Center kitchen. “We don’t plan the meals,” says one volunteer. “We just show up and see what’s available.”