By Mark D McHale, Member, Resident
In our ever-connected digital world, I have to admit I spend a lot of time judging and comparing my life with the lives of my online family, friends, and neighbors. Digitally dropping in may feel innocent enough, like I’m just staying in touch with those I love and care about, but I need admit it out loud- it’s also a lot about fostering jealousy, too. My posts, fixated on my own self-promotion, seem at times to be an attempt to tell the online world “I’m here! I’m important, too!” Too much of this unending, unwinnable beauty contest, and it just makes me feel anxious, lonely, and even depressed. There are days I find myself walking around in a black fog, not sure why I feel so horrible.
Dropping in on the “feed” is not the same as being in on the stream of life. If I’m going to stay sane, I need to take a break from all the binge scrolling I catch myself mindlessly doing, and actually get out to be with others now and again. Reconnecting with my surroundings and the people I care about helps me to restore my spirit and re-adjust my perspective. You want the whole truth? Living in the world helps me to take stock of just how blessed I am to get to live the life I do. Take it one step further, and it’s being of service to others that’s the most healing- sure to help me forget the petty problems of my life.
Today is Martin Luther King Day, and funny enough, I ran across an article in the Washington Post, “We Volunteer to Help Others, but Research Shows How Much it Helps Us, Too” which asserts more and more people are being duped by the same foolish and self-defeating behaviors of competition and self-promotion. In the article, the author Jamil Zaki writes, “we flourish not by besting others, but by being part of something greater than ourselves. By clamoring for status, we deprive ourselves of one thing that would actually help us — each other.” The result of this backward behavior is that we are distancing ourselves from each other and left feeling exhausted, anxious, and lonely in the process. Zaki shares with his readers that Dr. King’s simple solution was to be of ‘service to others’. The necessary and essential chance to be other-focused- even for a moment. While being of service to others, we actually get to forget our own ailments to become a vessel for the needs of another.
This January, I’ve made my resolutions as I do every year, but this time they’re not about making more money or having more of any thing. This year, my resolution is to spend less time fixated on me and my experience, and more time being of real, genuine, and compassionate service to others. My resolutions are:
- Once a month, volunteer: hand out groceries at Project Open Hand, visit a senior at the Castro Senior Center on Diamond Street, read a book with a kid at Harvey Milk Academy.
- Take care of my world, first. Instead of focusing on what the Republicans are doing that makes me so angry, I’m going to focus on how I show up in my world, by being a loving person, picking up trash on the sidewalk as I walk by, paying some small kindness forward to another. This is where I have the most power- right here where I am.
- Continue my membership with EVNA, and attend the public meetings. This is such a triple good deed: getting out of the house and into the world, meeting some wonderful (and sometimes weird) neighbors, and doing something good. This year we’ll get to do a few fun things: clean up the Sanchez Street Steps, host the movie night for the neighborhood, join a shift of the Castro Community on Patrol for a safety patrol.
Three simple steps to keep upbeat and feeling impactful. Most importantly, to stop fixating on me so much, and start focusing on others. It’s my resolution- and I know it will help us all.
Getting More Than I Gave
By Rob Cox
This December will be my last EVNA Board Meeting. I have been on the Executive Board of the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association (EVNA) for a dozen years. I’ve been a member of EVNA for 22+ years.
I have seen membership in EVNA ebb and flow over the years. I have worked with an amazing array of Board members and committee members. And I have seen EVNA take on some difficult situations and participate in some very fun events and tasks.
The one message that I want to share with you is that I got more than I ever gave. The experience is sometimes difficult but always rewarding.
The Castro neighborhood often feels like a “small town “and not a neighborhood in a large City. Through my association with EVNA I have deepened my relationship with our “small town”.
Getting to know my neighbors – whether merchants, residents, City officials or people who come here to work & play – has expanded my horizons and broadened my life views. I have not always agreed with everyone but I have always respected them and their opinions.
There is still (there is always!) more to do. The challenges that face the Castro are not easy and they require our attention. EVNA is your voice at City Hall, at Mission Station, to your Supervisor, to SFMTA, even to Sacramento and more.
Just a few of the projects that I have worked on at EVNA:
- Castro sidewalk widening
- Demanding security (Patrol Special) at night clubs and bars
- Demanding activation of the Patio Café space (now Hamburger Mary’s)
- Retail Study
- Jane Warner Plaza
- Castro Cares
- Sponsoring Mayoral debates at the Castro Theater
- Hosting neighborhood meetings in times of critical events like Halloween violence and the homeless/unsheltered problem
These and many others are issues that affect the quality of life here in the Castro. Affect your quality of life.
EVNA is a volunteer organization and is the oldest neighborhood association in California. It needs your help to keep moving forward and to remain vital.
If you are not a member, please join. If you are a member, thank you. And consider joining a committee or the executive Board and help guide EVNA.
It has been a pleasure and so rewarding to have been on the Board. I remain a member and will help where ever and whenever I can.
See you around the neighborhood, neighbor!
I’ve just passed a major milestone in my life which has undeniably repositioned the anchor to which I have tethered my sense of home. I’ve now lived here for just over 30 years- now counting more years in California than in my home state of Michigan. No matter the calendar, nor the count of the years, it’s been true for me that I’ve felt more at home in San Francisco than anywhere else.
This city had welcomed me when I was broken and afraid as a 28 year old young man, it’s helped me declare and sharpen who I am each day, and it’s provided a community from which I’ve drawn my closest friends and family, on par with my own blood family, whom I love so much. Over these 30 years, I’ve become more whole, I’ve learned to stand shoulder to shoulder with my peers, I have found my voice to declare what is important, and I’ve found a community in which I can give of myself and be supported by them in return.
In these past years, it’s become clear to me that I’m living the life I used to only dream of. Even more importantly, I’ve pulled down the rose colored glasses of youth and fantasy, and have come to appreciate it for all it’s multi-textured, irregular, and at times worrisome, outcomes. While there’s much, much work for us to do as a community, for the most part, we’ve got it pretty good here. It’s all part of the crazy story of the Eureka Valley.
None of my 30 years have been more fulfilling than those in service to the EVNA. As a supporter, a board member, and finally now as president, I’ve been fortunate to meet so many of the hearts and hands who work in our rich community: the Castro Merchants, Ford Street Neighborhood Action Group, the volunteers of the Castro Community on Patrol, the reporters and city representatives in our local government. What my time in position has affirmed is that our community is a diverse and wonderful place, with its own energy and inertia that can sometimes weigh us down, and at others fill our tanks in service of our common interests. As president, seizing the positive momentum has been my objective all along; we’ve worked hard to provide a needed forum for education, insight and discussion in the hopes we better understand our obligations to each other, and take advantage of the opportunities that lie before us. We've expanded our membership, drawn neighbors out to say Hello. We've built our online historical archive and bolster our social media presence. I’d like to think the EVNA is stronger as a result of our efforts over these past two years.
With my eyes widened and my heart full, it’s now time to pass the baton of leadership to another. A special “thank you” to the many people who have served on one of EVNA’s committees and on the board of directors, giving their time, insight, skills, funds, and energy to keep the EVNA running. I’m grateful to have worked with these fine souls, and wish the new president and board the best in their years to come.
Thank you Alex Lemberg, Kevin Cureton, Griffin Gaffney, Mary Edna Harrell, Rob Anderson, Rob Cox, Rob LeVan, Loic Olichon, Dan Schulman, and Desmond Morgan and Steve Clark Hall~ what a great bunch of neighborhood heroes and nerds!
2019 is rapidly coming to an end and the holiday season approaches. I want to take this opportunity to thank our many volunteers, members, supporters, and neighbors. Community-based nonprofits depend entirely on the energy of all of us to make a difference in our neighborhoods, and I want to thank you for all the time, energy, and ideas that you’ve contributed this year.
I want to give special thanks to our outgoing board president, Mark McHale, who has dedicated countless hours to the EVNA and the Eureka Valley community over the last two years. We are all grateful for his leadership, charm, and warmth.
As we look forward into 2020, I want to encourage each of you dear readers to think of what would make our neighborhood a better place to live, and ways to achieve those goals. No one of us can achieve these goals on our own, but together our power to make a difference is unlimited. I hope to see all of you in some capacity in 2020, whether you can help us plan a community event, address planning and land use projects, participate in social events, or just come to one of our informative public meetings.
From the EVNA board, we wish you a warm holiday season and a happy new year.
With the Thanksgiving Holiday this month, we've rescheduled our public meeting to Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019 at 7pm at the Eureka Valley Rec Center, upstairs meeting room. The doors open at 6:45.
Members will be voting for the 2020 Board of Directors, so don't miss it!