Tuesday, October 18, 2016

But let loveliness roll down like waters

Frederick Soulacroix, Tea on the Terrace. Via "A Return to Loveliness" at adelightsomelife.
Kathy Fletcher is national director of the Turnaround Arts Initiative, a public-private partnership within the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities dedicated to bringing arts education and materials—art supplies, musical instruments—to struggling elementary and middle schools around the country. Her husband David Simpson was at Issue One, a 501(C)(3) organization that "conceptualizes and funds the strategies necessary to reduce the undue influence of well-financed special interests over politics and policy-making.... to help create the political strength, critical mass, public presence and funding levels necessary to achieve substantive reforms at the state and national levels that put every day citizens back in the driver's seat of American politics" but left it last month to head up a new charity, AOK-DC, which aims, I think, to fund college for the 15 or so local DC kids from low-income and in some cases desperate situations who've been coming over to Kathy and David's house for dinner on Thursdays for the past couple of years.

They're obviously truly nice and sincere people, so kind that they even let David Brooks ("The Power of a Dinner Table") come over for the Thursday dinners and hugs all around:
They give us a gift — complete intolerance of social distance. When I first met Edd, I held out my hand to shake his. He looked at it and said, “We hug here,” and we’ve been hugging and hanging off each other since.
"Hanging off each other"? (If it meant something dirty I think you'd say "hanging each other off".) "We hug here" is a motto used on the new charity's website.

I just wanted to clarify for readers what kind of people Fletcher and Simpson are—members in good standing of the Beltway public-private joint venture aristocracy—because Brooks leaves that kind of blank, suggesting that they're just ordinary neighborhood folk and we should feel guilty for not emulating them:
Kathy Fletcher and David Simpson have a son named Santi, who went to Washington, D.C., public schools. Santi had a friend who sometimes went to school hungry. So Santi invited him to occasionally eat and sleep at his house.
That friend had a friend and that friend had a friend, and now when you go to dinner at Kathy and David’s house on Thursday night there might be 15 to 20 teenagers crammed around the table, and later there will be groups of them crashing in the basement or in the few small bedrooms upstairs....
Sometimes Kathy and David are asked how they ended up with so many kids flowing through their house. They look at how many kids are out there, and respond, “How is it possible you don’t?”
Well, Brooks had to offload the vast spaces for entertaining when he and Mrs. Brooks broke up, and I don't have a basement or a "few small bedrooms upstairs" either, just the one sofa bed and a dining table that can squeeze six or seven with the extra leaf (as long as the sofa bed is folded up).

There's a lot of pretty terrible writing—
It’s anomalous for them to have a bed at home....
The kids call Kathy and David “Momma” and “Dad,” are unfailingly polite, clear the dishes, turn toward one another’s love like plants toward the sun and burst with big glowing personalities....
During this election season of viciousness, vulgarity and depravity, Thursdays at Kathy and David’s has been a weekly uplift, and their home a place to be reminded of what is beautiful about our country and what we can do to bring out its loveliness.
Because let's face it, if every kind-hearted and energetic wealthy white couple with decades of experience in nonprofit management and fundraising was to follow Kathy and David's example and dedicate large portions of their lives to getting four or five kids per year from deeply disadvantaged backgrounds into elite colleges, you could be talking about literally dozens of kids—enough to fill most of a floor in a dorm at Smith or Hampshire! You'd have loveliness rolling down like waters!

No doubt you'd get huge economies of scale if you let government do that work like one of those decadent and unlovely European countries, and take care of tens of thousands of kids instead, but how would that help David Brooks feel good about himself?

As he did (I learn from the AOK-DC Facebook page) when he bought Kesari a guitar and brought it to her in New York, where she's doing a City Year with the AmeriCorps network? The white woman on the right in that picture is Anne Snyder, whose name some readers will recall and if you don't the blog has a searchbox, who used to be Brooks's research assistant at the Times until she suddenly quit and moved to Houston a couple of years ago. Hmm. But I don't have the heart to go on.

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