(On Saturday, January 16, 2016, Mayor Steve Martin welcomed attendees at the Martin Luther King Jr. Ceremony at Flamson Middle School in Paso Robles.)
It is good to be with you again in this room on this occasion. It was a year ago that I addressed you as your brand new mayor. Much has happened at home and across the nation in the last twelve months. Some highlights:
• The drought forced us all to save water… more than 300-million gallons so far. Folks are fighting over a new water district. Atascadero Lake went dry, Nacimiento Lake dropped to 16% of capacity. Reporters asked me how many times a week I showered.
• Cal Poly students got national attention when they protested racist and transgender discrimination. They got local attention when they piled on a garage roof during a St. Patrick’s Party until it collapsed. Kids.
• Hundreds of homeless lived under our bridges and in the river, unable to access the services designed to temper their suffering and help them rise up from poverty.
• There was a rash of Americans dying at the hands of police.
• There was a rash of Americans dying at the hands of armed civilians.
• There was a rash of people running for President.
What, you might ask, was the Mayor doing while of this was going on.
The answer: baking bread.
You see, I like to cook. I’m a “Chopped” chef. I don’t use recipes. I just browse in the pantry and figure out what I can make with what I find. (Carrots, rice and prune juice? What could I do with that?) Usually what I cook is edible, sometimes delicious, sometimes not so delicious. (Ask my daughters about the time I put peas in the spaghetti.)
The other day I was rummaging in our garage, (You know, the place where we keep things “temporarily”) and I found something I had almost forgotten we owned: a breadmaker. Mmmm, fresh bread. I can do this. So I hauled it into the kitchen, cleaned it up and started making bread, paying my usual attention to the quantities and ratios of ingredients. And I baked a brick.
“What went wrong?” I asked my wife. I fumed. I complained. I stomped my feet.
“Did you carefully measure the flour?”
“Did you measure the temperature of the water before adding the yeast?”
“Did you read the directions at all?”
So I tried again. I meticulously measured each ingredient. I checked temperatures. I mixed carefully. And when the buzzer went off, a beautiful, warm, fragrant loaf of bread came out of the machine. I felt like most men must feel when they shoot large animals or catch big fish. I wanted a picture of me and my loaf of bread.
More than a year ago we started baking a different kind of bread in Paso Robles. Let’s call it “Homeless Whole Wheat.” You see, it’s estimated that 200-400 people in Paso Robles are homeless or under-housed. They need food. They need shelter. They need healthcare. They need much more to help them out of the riverbed and back into what we call “gentle society.” They need Homeless Whole Wheat.
The good news? We had all the ingredients. The bad news? We hadn’t been following the right recipe.
A few months ago, however, we changed all of that. We mixed 22 ingredients (social services, health services, animal services, even letter-writing services) in one location. The day-long event helped 81 people, ages 6 months to 71 years. Plans are in place to bake this loaf of bread in five different locations around the county in 2016.
Today we see warming shelters opening and volunteers staffing them. The bread isn’t completely baked yet, but the ingredients are there.
Rev. King once said “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’”
I believe we must keep asking ourselves that question. And take courage in answering it, for we cannot yield to fear.
• Fear is like peas in spaghetti. It makes no sense.
• Fear is an ingredient we cannot tolerate in our kitchens.
• Fear is like cold yeast in bread-making. Add as much as you like. It will never cause the loaf to rise.
Homelessness. Water. Discrimination.Violence. Terrorism. If Dr. King were with us today, I believe he would be involved in solving these problems. I believe he would be reminding us again that “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” I believe he would remind us there are recipes that work if we will only follow them. I believe he would be baking bread.
On this occasion of remembrance and celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King JR, let us remember that. Let us get our hands in the flour and the yeast and the salt of the earth and work together, locally, nationally and around the world. Always looking to serve others, always building dykes against the waves of fear, always choosing not to raise our voices in anger, but, instead, to improve the quality of our arguments.
Surely, that is a recipe that will bear warm, satisfying results.
My thanks to the committee members who organized today’s celebration of the life Martin Luther King Jr. for allowing me to address you.
On behalf of the City of Paso Robles and the entire Paso Robles City Council, I welcome you and wish you all “good baking.”