Yes, Virginia - there still are good people out there

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SamLinder's picture
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Yes, Virginia - there still are good people out there

With all the gloom-and-doom we read about in the MSM and on various web sites (including this one), it is good to highlight those who have come to terms with life and make an absolute effort to share with their fellow man.

In contrast to the dilemma I posed on the "When the chickens come home to roost!" thread, here is a story about some really good people who have solved the problem their way. My hat is off to them!,1299,DRMN_15_54906...

SAME Cafe: So All May Eat

Restaurant serves food to everyone; pay if you can

Apple and blue cheese pizza: Uh, 10 bucks, maybe?

Creamy spring onion soup: Whattaya say - a fiver?

The philosophy of SAME Cafe?


On a little concrete patch of one of Denver's grittiest avenues,
Hunter Dragon is back for his daily taste of a miracle. The 25-year-
old musician ("I'm a troubadour") who seems equal parts beard, stocking
cap, tattoos, rolled-up pants, intelligence and good vibes is finishing
up his lunch at the SAME. Soon, he will pay for his meal the way about
half of the clients do - by working it off with a little elbow grease
and a measure of dignity.

In Dragon's case, he will wash dishes. He may mop the floor. Doesn't
matter. What does matter is, "You get this sense of self- worth here.
It's like you earn your keep.

"The whole concept of this place - that a musician like me without
much money could come eat and not be looked down on - is just so cool.
I was giddy when I heard about it, just blown away."

Even if you have the cash for lunch, you still might be borne aloft
by the absence of set menu prices at SAME (So All May Eat). The humble
cafe is more the heart-child than brainchild of Brad and Libby Birky, a
pair of transplanted Illinoisans who are married to each other
and the concept that there is beauty and grace in feeding

Their faith in feeding is demonstrated by giving clients the option
of paying what they can - or want to - for a meal. Sure, they "suggest"
a spread of $5-$15 for a full meal and $3-$6 for, say, soup, but that's
all it is - a suggestion.

"I know in today's society that's how things work - people don't go
outside the standard model of set prices; they stand on the reality
side of things," said Brad, standing behind a counter that holds a
small garden of mismatched glasses and cups. Then, with a short laugh,
he adds, "Sure, it freaks people out when they come in for the first
time. They get some strange looks on their faces."

Pay if you can

But they soon get with the program. And even if they don't, even if
some people try to weasel a meal, Brad Birky says, "Who cares?" It's
not like he and his wife figure to get rich - they've applied for
nonprofit status for SAME. Meaning it's a good thing Brad moonlights as
a computer consultant while Libby generates income as a teacher at a
private school.

"We're not a soup kitchen; that's important to understand. We don't
just hand out food," Brad said. With even more fervor, he added,
"Everybody should be able to have a good, healthy meal, whether they
can afford it or not."

The "healthy" part is particularly important to the Birkys. Having
volunteered in shelters and soup kitchens for eight years, they've
seen, as Brad says, "the need of the working poor and homeless to have
an outlet for fresh fruit and vegetables in their diet. A lot of the
people who have come in here have gone months without seeing something
that didn't come out of a can."

But if the emphasis is as much on healthful, organic fare as
possible, "healthy" doesn't necessarily mean bland. For instance, the
hand-stretched pizza dough is made of two types of whole-wheat flour,
but it is sublimely chewy. And concocting a sauce for the
chicken-and-chives pizza that blends cream cheese, sour cream,
scallions and garlic is a clear indication that, Brad said, "We like to
not be standard."

Apparently, Brad, who has two years of culinary and restaurant
management classes at Metropolitan State College under his toque, isn't
speaking with a forked ladle.

"Excellent - simple and fresh," pronounces Rachel Byrne, 35, a
physician's assistant and SAME first-timer who is dining with her
friend Samantha Horoschak.

"Spectacular as usual," echoes Hazel Heckers, 49, a psychotherapist
at another table who is showing graduate student friend Kim Weisser the
SAME ropes.

"I love that all people are treated well and treated with respect
and dignity," Heckers said. "And the second reason I come is the food
is great."

Two tenets that Patty Walker likely would concur with.

Walker, 48, takes the bus from Superior to Denver three days a week
to visit a methadone clinic that has helped keep her off heroin for
years. Since the cafe's October opening, she's guaranteed a good meal
each of those days, as well as something more.

"I like it here; it's really comfortable," Walker said. "You don't
have to worry about someone breathing down your neck about paying.

Two "really big hearts"

Those times when Walker can't manage a couple of bucks from her
disability stipend or the greeting cards she designs, she finishes
eating and resolutely marches back to clean the bathroom.

"I don't mind that at all; sometimes, I mop or sweep the floors,
too," Walker said. "It's like in the old-fashioned days when, if you
couldn't afford the meal, you'd wind up washing dishes."

She pauses over her plate of roasted vegetables.

"The other thing about this place I like? Brad and Libby both have,
like, really big hearts."

Especially when compared with the size of their wallets.

After making sure they'd paid off their car ("So we'd have a place
to live, just in case," he laughed), the couple scraped together
$30,000 and opened SAME with a quiet belief.

Asked if he thought SAME could really make a go of it, Brad replied,

Success may seem like a long shot because of the cafe's modest size
- seven tables, four of which seat two people, a streamlined menu (two
pizzas, two salads that change every day plus sugar cookies that are
starting to create an urban legend among patrons), mostly
lunchtime-only hours and a heretical pricing structure.

"To us," he said, "success is serving a healthy meal to people who
need one but might not be able to afford it."

Although the Birkys were raised Christian, there is not a whiff of
organized religion to be found. Unless that is, you count as religion
the sayings posted on the walls like the one from Gandhi: "Be the
change that you want to see in the world."

Another lunchtime of changing the world in an imperceptible but
strangely powerful way is coming to a close at Brad and Libby Birky's
place. The psychotherapist has gone back to healing. The former heroin
addict has gone back to cleaning bathrooms. Both have left the table
well fed. Both have left the table with a feeling of fulfillment and

Sure, you can pay whatever you want for the food at the SAME Cafe,
but there's no charge at all for the sense of grace.

Dining details

Where: SAME Cafe, 2023 E. Colfax Ave., between
Race and Vine streets

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through
Thursday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday and

Menu: Changes each day but always includes two
types of pizza, soup, salad and a homemade dessert

Payment: Cash and checks only; no credit

Information: 720-530-6853 or

caroline_culbert's picture
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Re: Yes, Virginia - there still are good people out there

This is great!

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
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Re: Yes, Virginia - there still are good people out there

Sam -

Great post.

I sit on the Board of Directors of a 501C.3 headquartered in Boulder, CO that is related to what SAME is doing. 

The Conscious Alliance - take a look at the site when you get a chance.

Our focus is primarily the Native American community, but we also distribute to local food banks.  We work closely with Lakota Nation in South Dakota, Nothern Cheyenne Nation, Houma Reservation and a handful of others to collect and provide food for these impoverished communities.  All distribution is left up to tribal elders.  Last year, we began service learning initiatives with about 6 colleges - the kids came out to the reservations and worked side by side with the resident Native Americans refurbishing tribal lodges and facilities.

The Executive Director is a great guy - graduated from University of Colorado witha Religious studies degree and immediately acted on a need he saw.  Since inception back in 2002, Conscious Alliance has collected and distributed over a million pounds of food across the country.

The interesting twist or approach the guys at Conscious Alliance have is they are leveraged in the music community.  They have a nationwide network of volunteers who will activate as different bands tour the country.  The volunteers collect food in exchange for concert poster art and drop it off at local food banks in the tour cities.  It's not uncommon to collect 2000-4000 pounds of food a night at some shows.  That works out to about 2500 cans of vegetables and fruit - a welcome sight at every food bank we have delivered to.  Two years ago we collected 25,000 pounds of food at a three night run in Denver.  We filled a 35' Ryder truck to the roof and drove it up to the Pine Ridge Reservation for distribution.  Not bad for a bunch of 26 year old kids with giant hearts.

Thanks for posting the article about SAME - looks like Pay It Forward is alive and well in Denver.

ceci1ia's picture
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Re: Yes, Virginia - there still are good people out there

This reminds me of the Diggers in SF in 1966-68 who set up a free
store, and also had free food and free clinics. Their website is a
beautiful reminder of where we started with this. Yes, Virginia, they
were good people. Here is the digger website:


becky's picture
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Re: Yes, Virginia - there still are good people out there

Thanks Sam,

Beautiful story. It's nice to see people having the opportunity to be brought together in a way that's dignified for everybody.


SamLinder's picture
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Re: Yes, Virginia - there still are good people out there

caroline, Dogs, ceci1ia, becky -

For all we bash the MSM, sometimes they do bring good things to light. I actually saw the story on NBC Nightly News ( last night (Monday).


Dogs, ceci1ia -

Thanks for highlighting other organizations that are doing similar things. It's good to keep in mind that there are similar groups of everyday people all across this country that are selflessly helping their fellow human beings.

I appreciate stories like this if for no other reason than it tears me away from my self-centered perspective on life and reminds me that there are some really, really good people scattered across this country.

Humbles me - which I probably need more often than I would like to admit! Embarassed

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Rosemary Sims
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Re: Yes, Virginia - there still are good people out there

Thank you for posting this, Sam.  It is really something we tend to forget as we journey toward the chaos that is sure to come.

I can tell you that in post catastrophic events, at least in my experience, our fellow human beings exercise far more generosity than is ever reported by the media.  Immediately post Katrina in New Orleans, while the city was still flooding,  there was this immense, heartfelt surge of people (who happened to be traditional "enemies" of that "big" city in our state) who responded immediately when they heard the city was flooding.  I recall one 5 mile long caravan of boats from the Lafayette area who arrived to go pull folks from their rooftops into their boats and carry them to wherever they would be safe.  They were refused entry into the city by FEMA, who had not yet  deployed the massed civil servants they had commandeered from the LA Wildlife and Fisheries who shuffled in dispair on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain cleaning their boats and boots, and indeed they did not do whatever they were there for for some days (way too late for rooftop rescue, etc).  Meanwhile, in the city itself, anybody with any sense at all hearing the screams and moans from attics was trying to find a boat, and many did, and these individuals, rather than fleeing to save themselves, and with no external direction at all, some with stolen boats,  went about the task of riding their neighborhoods to find those who might have been trapped by the waters.  They had no supplies, nothing.  Just big hearts and their or somebody else's boat.  And yes, they stole gas sometimes, generally reported as looting.  And they worked for days and days and days with no relief just as the Coast Guard did (surely the one arm of our military whose leadership may still have had some integrity).  I beg you to also think of the spunky kid who stole the school bus and drove it to Houston with a busload of project residents and all the others whose stories I do not even know but may still be found on the internet.  But look into that phenomenal story of the schoolbus ride to Houston to see a "bad" kid you will probably welcome on  your block when chaos hits.  (Just don't leave your purse or wallet sitting in view. :)  Thinking about all of this does remind me that it is time that we start to recognize, accept and honor our differences.  We do really have our strengths and our weaknesses and the pieces really do fit together.

Concurrent to the immediate aftermath of flooding and local rescue efforts, yes, there was some looting.  I probably would have been one of them had I been there so that I would not die of thirst, but most of the "looting shots" you saw were on Canal St of kids stealing high end sneakers from the same place,  And it was not nearly as pervasive in the city as it was portrayed; greatly exaggerated by the press since they kept their butts on Canal St (the dry part) to report blithely unconfirmed rumors.  Absolutely disgusting and sensationalist coverage of the very worst caliber.  In most cases,  folks were helping each other out. The major problem in the city was petty theft of essential and valuable goods well after the city was no longer flooded.  Houses were broken into repeatedly while the owners were away.  But I know of only a few instances of guns being used for any reason.  Lots of people carried them, though. Do some research on how many gun deaths there were in NO in the flooded weeks and the first few weeks following the end of the flood.  You will probably find that the murder rate is lower than it is today in the usual drug trafficking way of the city.  It was a prime opportunity for the press to manipulate us and I can see on this site alone, it certainly worked.

We tend, I think to be so manipulated by our press that we cannot see other possibilities. (I want to scream "Turn off your f***ing TVs!)  It seems to me that TPB want us to be afraid of each other; actually I think that they need us to be afraid of each other because then we will need them, will rely on them, creating their power, and frankly I think they inadvertantly are suggesting that we have  no power on our own, a blatant lie as Katrina has shown us.

The horrible disasters of Katrina and Rita showed that we do have power (although under reported), and  much left over to fight the old fight between the "states" and federal government, and to rely on each other in times like these.   (translate "states" into "local entities")

I am comfortable that in the little village where I now live in S central LA, with those people I know better and better each day, I will be fine.  But I also believe that in my birthplace and former home of many years, t hings will initially be much rougher, but never as horrible as is reported, and that one day I'll be able to go back.  It's a city of neighborhoods and closeness and I expect that will not change.



ceci1ia's picture
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Re: Yes, Virginia - there still are good people out there

We listen to radio programs as we don't have a TV, and on our NPR
station is the program, "This American Life". They have a website with
an archive of shows. Go here to hear their interviews with people who
went through Katrina and the aftermath. There is one part where the
people set up a cooperative camp and were living peacefully, black and
white, and going out to get supplies like toilet paper, which might be
called looting. They had a livable situation while they waited for
rescue. A government helicopter came down and blew their camp apart
with the wind from its rotors. On purpose. Go here to listen:


remember, back in my TV-watching days, watching a special about Attica.
Remember Attica, the prison riots in NY state? The people being
interviewed said they went in to the wreckage afterward and reported
painted slogans on the walls: BLACK AND WHITE TOGETHER and all about
how together the prisoners would fight against authority.

My personal observation is that after that time in the late
60s/early 70s, we have had terrible gang culture and violence in the
prisons and great segregation along race lines in the prisons. I feel
this didn't just happen naturally, but it's a result of a culture hack
to keep the prison population and in fact, the general population,
distrustful of each other and unorganized.

Community and organization is dangerous to the people at the top. I think. 

Rosemary Sims's picture
Rosemary Sims
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Re: Yes, Virginia - there still are good people out there

"Community and organization is dangerous to the people at the top. I think."


I think you are right about that, Cecilia.  Racial cohesion is most threatening to TPTB.  The more that I resift my experiences during racial integration, in which I actively participated here in LA, the more I see that was so.  Sometimes, Jesse Jackson getting a stipend from the CIA is just one delusion of mine as I see any cohesion and true equallity smashed by the media like a helicopter over a fragile camp that was formed our of our comraderie.  And I've seen such so many times before.  One race must be the aggressor (to be curbed by tptb), and the other the victims(supported by tptb).

Divide and conquer, no?

There is much food for thought here about how we have been manipulated I think. I often wonder how we could not have noticed we were being so manipulated.  I mean, I can remember having serious doubts about many things it was not then kosher to talk about (pre hippy days), but through all these years?  How could we not see what a mess we ourselves allowed to happen? It is all so beyond common sense, isn't it?

There was a Jewish woman in the small town where I grew up who talked to me once about what it was like to escape the Nazis in WWII.  One thing she said has always stuck with me.  "We didn't know, we just couldn't believe what it had turned into when it was all over."

Perhaps now is the time for us all to go beyond this manipulation and artificial division.  Fear seems to be the main mechanism, beginning with George Carlin's "stuff".  It is hopefully something we have learned from Katrina, the real value of "stuff" is probably somewhere below zero, and t hat includes moola. 


ceci1ia's picture
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Re: Yes, Virginia - there still are good people out there

Rosemary, yes, I resonate with what you say. How could we not see the mess as it happened? I think we were blinded by TV, shiny consumer objects, the race to get/do something. I believe this modern culture is like self-installing malware; you try to get away from ego identification, it comes back in another way. You try to get free of goals and having to prove yourself, and in comes your kids growing up and you want them to do/be/get something in life. It's insidious.

I am a big fan of Eckhart Tolle's writing and I find a lot of help in his works.

fortytwo's picture
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Re: Yes, Virginia - there still are good people out there

Thanks for posting this Sam.  As you can see,  all it takes is one person to start finding things that are 'right' in this world to get others thinking in the same way.

Minneapolis lost a great woman this week.  Giovanna D'Agostina, also known as Mama D, died on Tuesday. The noted cookbook author and restaurateur took time to feed the indigent and visit those in jail.

I remember visiting her restaurant as a child and being overwhelmed with her hospitality. The best part about reading the article was that I realized that you don't need to be anyone special to care for others.  Her restaurant was modest and her time was valuable, but she made time to touch the hearts of others.  I also learned that by doing that- she inspired others to do the same.

Keep posting examples of what's right in this world.  It helps us all! 

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