This past week started off a little wonky.
Between the news, the weather, and a couple other things going on, I felt so dispirited this week.
I didn’t want to watch the news, but when I read all the emails and texts streaming in about it, I felt I had to — and then I felt more anxious than ever.
Sometimes I just want to curl into bed with a bag of Fritos and binge watch the complete season of The Sopranos or Breaking Bad until the world returns to one I can recognize.
But that’s not possible right now, so I do the one thing that always makes me feel better.
Yep — I start cooking.
This past Friday I decided to focus on the abundance around me — by acknowledging it and rewarding those who pay it forward every single day of the week.
I started with making soup — lots of it.
First up, a black bean soup made more unctuous and rich by the addition of carnitas pork and pureed chipotle peppers.
Whenever I roast a whole pork butt or shoulder I usually have a little leftover and so I freeze it, saving it for just this purpose. It’s amazing how just a little bit of roasted pork livens up a stew or soup; it enriches the stock and gives a wonderful mouth feel to a mostly-smooth soup.
While the soup was finishing cooking, I had a little snack to fortify me –a bruschetta with a smear of hummus, some smashed chickpeas, English cucumber, avocado, Mama Lil’s peppers and mint on Tabor Bread Fillone.
It was incredibly satisfying.
I then took fifteen minutes out to write a few notes to people to explain why I’d selected them for a treat on my Pay it Forward Day.
I then packaged up the soup, topping each portion with avocado, cilantro and these amazing corn nuts from Albina City Nuts (available at New Seasons).
I then spent an hour and a half dropping off this soup, notes and some more of those bruschetta (for those who are vegetarian).
And interesting connections flourished.
Elizabeth got this…
… and while I was talking to her, another neighbor, Nic, came out to say howdy (he got soup, too) and it turns out that they both a had a love for outdoor adventure filmmaking. She had an extra ticket for the Banff Film Festival that night — would he like to go with her?
I love it when people I like separately find each other and become friends, too.
Elizabeth dropped off this later (I babysat her newborn baby that night while she attended that movie).
She’s an incredible single mother of two who works full-time as an emergency doctor and still she finds the time to cook for the homeless and help others those in need.
Worthy also of a shout out is my friend Amy who pairs Portlanders with international students who are looking for a little slice of American hospitality. She’s also one of the most generous gals I know, so she too got a drop off.
Same so for Emily, another neighborhood favorite who is also donating her time, her husband’s wine (he’s a winemaker for Vista Hills) and constant support to the world around her (she’s always leaving me flowers and other treats on my doorstep).
Last time we got together she treated me to lunch
so I wanted to repay her kindness with a little cup of something warm.
She was starving and grateful for the lunch, and said she was going to come up with another way she was going to pay it forward.
I saw her again earlier yesterday when she dropped my clean bowl back off to me along with a darling Valentine and plantable hearts from Paper Source.
She told me that she was motivated by my impromptu lunch to continue with another kindness.
She decided to pull together little kits for those living on the streets here. She got the idea from a friend of hers who does it regularly, and these kits are filled with useful things like hand warmers, granola bars, and hygiene products (items like mini soaps, toothbrush, toothpaste and wipes).
After school on Friday, she and her boys delivered these kits around.
(Way to go, Em. I’m so honored you chose to do that.)
Also that morning I invited Gillian to swing by for a some soup to go. She bumped into a mutual friend of ours, Sasha, along the way, thus bringing two faces to my door.
(Two more of my favorite people who would do just about anything for someone in need.)
In the process of talking, one friend gave the other a spendy pan she wasn’t using (I’m collecting household items for refugees and she’d just dropped it off) and then they brainstormed about other things they might have to add to this collection. These are women who already do amazing things, trying to figure out how to do more.
More connections, more giving opportunities.
And then I had to quick change gears and clean up the kitchen because I’d invited someone new over for lunch — Rebecca Ringquist, an amazing designer, artist, blogger and embroidery author.
She walked in with these wonderful treats: a jar of homemade prune applesauce and an enamel spoon she’d bought for me at Goodwill (she’s a reader too of this blog so she’s aware of my obsession with all things aqua/teal).
I’ve gotten to know Rebecca a little bit on Instagram and on a whim I decided to have her over for lunch. I didn’t know much about her other than she creates incredible hand-drawn embroidery samplers and that she’d moved here from Brooklyn a little over a year ago.
Her talent was obvious from her IG posts, her blog and Etsy shop– but what I could not know beforehand is how sweet and funny and enjoyable she is to be around.
I made her soup, and we chatted and followed her toddler around the house.
We ate lunch from the second batch of soup I was making: Tom Kha Gai with Udon noodles.
I love meeting new people and hearing the different paths they’ve taken to pursue their creativity– and it’s even better when success comes to those so worthy.
And here’s the thing.
Paying it forward isn’t so much for others but for me— it re-channels my energy and makes me appreciate that which I have that much more. The fact that it spurs others on to further generosity is gravy.
Turns out that paying it forward has legs, too– the good vibes linger.
I’d dropped off another delivery on Friday, and I’d already forgotten about it — dinner for a family down the street.
Look what I woke up to yesterday morning.
It was the smallest gesture from me, but I can see this school teacher telling her students about this random kindness. Perhaps her students are already doing something like this, but maybe they will be a little extra kind to one another because of it. Or replicate it at some point, because they’d seen their teacher be moved by it.
Generosity and kindness are contagious, while hate and vitriol self-immolate.
At least that’s the hope.
One last familiar face needed inclusion in my Pay it Forward activities. He’s the one who always loves without expectation of return and is always right there for me.
Man I love my dog– he makes me happy a hundred times a day.
And for all those who live here in Portland and are rocking it in my world with their generosity, I probably haven’t hit you up yet on my first Pay it Forward Friday.
I’m coming for you next.