I've written about the importance of washing dishes and I've tried to put my money where my mouth is in my various living situations here in NYC. For me, the dishes were always symbolic of the dirty work that we all have to do - yet nobody wants to do - when living in community. I, like so many activists before me, stood begrudgingly before the kitchen sink and washed dishes, regardless of whether they belonged to me.
"Everyone wants a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes," I'd remind myself.
But I still did not consider this task to be a job (I certainly wasn't paid for it), or even my work. I didn't include dishwashing on my daily schedule. And it never took longer than, say, fifteen minutes. It's another thing entirely to stand before a sink full of dirty dishes for eight hours a day.
Welcome to Darling Coffee.
When I finished recording the raw material for my new album #Heliotropism just a few weeks ago in North Carolina, I returned to the city ready to pound the pavement of Washington Heights, to seek out a job, to become gainfully employed.
A friend and fellow volunteer at Word Up told me of this coffee shop on 207th street that she worked at, mentioning that they were short-staffed and that I ought to apply. I e-mailed the owners, expressing my interest in dishwashing. They then invited me to come in for a couple trial shifts. Within a few days they agreed to add me to payroll.
The past week I worked five eight hour shifts and I've been telling people about my new work. "I'm a dishwasher…"
Almost invariably they furrow their brow in pity and disappointment. Even a co-worker came up during one of my first shifts, asking how it was going.
"Well, you know.. I'm washing dishes."
She suddenly looked very sad for me, like I was a puppy who'd just been run over by an SUV.
"What? Why are you making that face?" I asked. "I love washing dishes!"
She couldn't believe it, she said that I have "dishes zen". Sure, I've taken notes from Brother Lawrence, who I'll surely revisit and write more about. But it's truly a great honor to serve my neighbors and my co-workers in this way. There's no shame in the work I do - I hold it in high regard, as it blesses people that I care about, even if only in a small way and behind the scenes. Throughout my few days working there, I've already seen six different neighbors that I know from Word Up, TGC, and the Inwood Greenmarket.
Most importantly, I know that I've not made any ethical concessions. This coffee shop is incredibly conscientious - much of their coffee and food ingredients are locally sourced, they go to great lengths to recycle and even compost as much as possible, and the owners are a young married couple with a baby just hoping to support themselves and provide their community with a welcoming space to meet, work, drink, and eat gourmet food and drinks.
Though I worked a full-time schedule this past week, it looks like I'll be averaging twenty hours per week in the foreseeable future. This is a perfect schedule for me - I believe that I'll be making more than enough money to pay my bills and even begin to climb out of debt, while still allowing plenty of time to focus on my many creative pursuits. This job has already been a huge blessing to me and I look forward to dispensing the blessings back out to my community as I wash the dishes and keep the dance party going at the kitchen sink.