©2018 by The Mosaic heART Project           Amy Salerno                   iamamysalerno@gmail.com 

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Sunday at Dorothy Day

August 20, 2018

 

On Sunday, I woke up gradually, had some breakfast and found my way down to Dorothy Day. Inside the tables were set for lunch and I could smell beans cooking in the oven. A group of volunteers from St. Mary's Church sat with mugs of coffee, laughing and talking, their work done for the day. I began to set up. We talked about the mural. One of the ladies asked if I had planned a reveal event, to which I responded that I was better at the working than that part of things. She said she could help with that and the ideas started forming in my mind of how to celebrate the people of Dorothy Day. Her husband asked me more about my work and myself. I explained that I started the HeART Project to bring community experiences to people, where hope is needed. He asked if it was a religious organization, and I said not really, just trying to do some good work. I gave him and his wife my card. I later found out that the gentleman is a television celebrity and his wife a business mogul. Again, I seem to live in oblivion. 

 

I began cutting the cobalt blue stained glass that I had brought in to fill into the sky. I added some more larger white marble to the wings of the dove, and found myself singing as I usually do when I am in the creative zone. The songs ranged from the church songs of my youth,  Make Me a Channel of Your Peace which made me feel especially connected to my mother, who is a large inspiration for my work here. And then I transitioned to Memories from Cats, entering the weirdness zone, making me realize I needed to drink some water and get some fresh air. 

 

A woman knocked on the door with a tray of hot food, and cups of warm beans to drop off. It was beautiful that throughout my time working on the mural people would pop by with food to donate. I like knowing that so many people are generous and thoughtful. In a little while I looked up and saw my friend Wayne, the gentleman who had helped me on Friday, at the door. He had a big smile on. I held up the brass polish I had gotten to shine the keys. Another gentleman came to the door saying his cousin, Wayne told him about the art teacher. He shared with me how he had won an art award in middle school at Rogers Park, here in Danbury. The next wave of volunteers started coming in, and I didn't want to get in their way. I thought about going home, but I had a feeling I wouldn't come back if I did. 

 

So, I took my bucket of keys, brass cleaner, gloves and water bottle outside sat down on the sidewalk against the building and started to polish keys. (After sharing this story with my sister and nieces who asked, "Why were you polishing a bucket of keys, as if that's normal?" I'll add that I had taken Wayne's advice to polish the brass keys that would form a halo around the dove in the mural.) It was a beautiful day and the breeze felt wonderful. It was nice to have fresh air. Wayne wanted to help, but was having difficulty getting the gloves on because his hands were shaking, so I helped him. We began to polish keys, and the lunch crowd started assembling on the sidewalk. The crowd was mostly men, and then a woman came asking to speak with me. She was looking for Kevin. I said I didn't know him but I would keep an eye out for him. She kept wanting me to walk up the street with her. She asked if I needed any money, and I thanked her but said I was doing alright. She asked the group if they had seen Kevin and no one had. When she left I asked the young man next to me if he knew her. He kind of nodded, and said there are a lot of angry women on this block. I asked him why he thought that was, and some of the other gentlemen started chiming in. I don't feel like I ever got an answer though. Wayne explained to folks that the keys were to create a halo for the dove, and that it had to be shiny. 

 

There was a family walking down the street with a little dog named Nina who was let off of her leash. She was running all about, and I was nervous that she was going to get hit by a car. She was a sweet little dog. The son, who was maybe 3 would call her back authoritatively and she would listen. Nina came to the gentleman sitting beside me, who had won the middle school art award, who was dozing in and out of sleep and jumped into his lap. 

 

The doors were about to open for lunch and I brought my bucket in, and soaked the polished keys. Manny who was the head volunteer asked me if I wanted to join the volunteers to pray. I joined in, as we held hands in a circle and prayed the Our Father. They asked if I wanted to help out and I said sure. I got to see some familiar faces from the other day. The lunch was hot dogs, salad, beans, milk, iced tea and strawberries and coffee and dessert. I put my old waitressing "skills" back into action, but admitted to the patrons that I was a terrible waitress seeing that I was slow and had a terrible memory. "Not good in a waitress," one man laughed. I said I managed to get good tips because people felt bad for me, sure that I was going to be fired at any minute. There was kindness and gratitude from the patrons. There was warmth and a respectful dignity from the volunteers. Manny was a calm and quiet presence welcoming guests to sign in as they entered. 

 

The gentleman I had met on Friday who knew the bible very well, and had explained the significance of the dove to me was there. He greeted me with a warm, "You're back." I commented that it was good to see him. We started talking about Dorothy Day and that he hadn't realized she was a real person. I shared what I knew about her. He said that aside from the Blessed Mother and his own mother the person he is most inspired by was Helen Keller. When he was really down and out he would think of her. He shared this quote, "The best and most beautiful things in world can not be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart." 

 

There was a gentleman in the back dining room who had eaten three hot dogs and was having a hard time now. He said he should have gone easy on the hot dogs. He needed his inhaler. This reminded me of our family friend Joe Kennedy who drove a limo for awhile and had once drove one of the contestants to the Coney Island Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest. Joe was an amazing story teller, and I remember loving hearing all about it.  This gentleman later was feeling better and got out the broom and swept the dining room at the end of the meal. 

 

Desserts were chocolate cupcakes, lemon meringue pie, pound cake, cake from a shower that didn't happen, and my favorite, carrot cake. As I brought the tray around with the cakes one guest took the carrot cake. Remembering our conversation from the day before of my favorite cake Wayne said, "He got you out of trouble taking that cake." I smiled. I hadn't thought about Dorothy Day being a real challenge of temptation to my diet with the enormous amount of sweets. It was time for a coffee as well, and I found a mug with a big hunk of swiss cheese and a mouse that said The Big Cheese. 

 

I poured a cup of coffee and sat at the table with Wayne and a young man with a loud presence, bold outfit, turquoise bose radio and a comb in his hair. He had made an entrance, and you could feel a shift in the dining room, from a quiet, calm lunch to an activated environment. We started talking, and soon he became interested in the mural giving his input. It was awesome and spot on. He said I should add some darker colors to the dove because not all things are light, and that I should take the red tiles out near the hands. Interestingly I was going to do both.

 

Lunch was almost over and I was feeling sleepy, I knew I needed to jump into action or I would lose my drive. I started peeling more tiles from boards. These ones were really glued on to the sample board. I had to use a chisel and hammer. The young man who had been giving me his input wanted to help. And it's this tricky line.  My vision of the mural was to have many people helping from Dorothy Day. The rules of Dorothy Day don't permit any patrons to be there outside of meal times and we can't work during meal times. So I feel conflicted. The young man explained to me that he is the youngest one to come to Dorothy Day. He's 23. He said that he wants to be part of this, so he can look at the mural and be proud that he helped. And now this is everything that I want the mural to be. But as the volunteers were closing the kitchen and dining room all guests were asked to leave, including Wayne and my new young friend. I thanked them profusely, and Wayne said it was okay. But I wish it were different. So I need to figure out a way to make it different. 

 

 

 

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