The route between our Center City, Health Sciences campus and the main campus in West Philadelphia is a walking route that inevitably takes me through Occupy Philadelphia. A tangle of tents, signs and humanity, the Occupiers have been there since the recent movement began in New York City.
Around the nation, the public debates: What is Occupy? Presidential candidates tell us who thereal culprits are when it comes to our economic downturn and suggest the Occupiers are wrong to target Wall Street, the banks and "big" money. Throughout my workday at various venues, people voice concern, often discussing what they think the real issues are, offering rhetorical advice to the Occupiers. Others simply wonder how the protesters will fare in the approaching winter. My Facebook wall is increasingly crowded by the same videos and quotes and signs, shared over and over by well-meaning friends who are with the Occupiers in spirit, secretly hoping that something, anything, will change for the better. Something might change for the better because of these spirited people, living in tents across the United States and doing what they can to be seen and heard.
In my time, I have marched, chanted, carried signs, written letters and testified. Over time those actions have changed, informed by age (55 in a few weeks…) and outcome, but the deep and burning desire to make a difference remains. The understanding that each of us can effect positive change remains. The knowledge that collectively we can create positive change on a grand scale remains. It's so powerful! I like to think of a Revolution as many people, moving at different speeds toward the same goal. Some "push the needle" as far to the Left as possible, opening the door for others to inch the needle in that same direction. It's all good.
On a particularly sunny morning, Occupy Philadelphia is abuzz. There is an "information tent" staffed by two young people sporting various piercings and a shared excitement for the work day ahead. There is a medic tent and food area. Signs, literal and figurative, convey an array of information about the 99%. I am taking it all in with a sense of my own past, present and future; a sense of the role I play along with the core principles of social justice and public health.
An older man approaches the information tent with additional people by his side. Much older than those staffing the tent, they are all carrying stacks of boxes. He is clearly on his way to work, but first he asks the Occupy staffers if they can use some cupcakes (hundreds, actually). They respond with an emphatic yes!, call out to others that there is food delivery and begin to disperse the caloric energy all around. It all takes place over a few minutes but in that time, I am so moved. People helping each other who might never otherwise be in so much as a conversation!
We may not agree on what exactly is wrong or how it happened that we are at this juncture but this much is true: there is enough money and food in the world to end poverty and to feed everyone who lives here. Figuring it all out is the work of our time and no doubt the work of generations to follow. It’s all about doing your part with a sense of how it fits, of how you fit, into the bigger picture we call life, in the biggest place we call home. We all get to occupy it - the devil is in the details.