The Community Food Co-op is honored to award Ellen Murphy the 2014 Community Cooperator award for her years of community service.
Many of you know Ellen, as she has been of service in a myriad of ways to our community over the years. She is one of those blessed community peacemakers that comes along every so often and works tirelessly to make this world a better place—including 13 years as a Co-op volunteer in charge of organizing the reusable bulk food containers.
More notably, Ellen has dedicated her life to helping others heal and to working on the pursuit of peace and justice in a nonviolent way. She has done this through decades of work as a licensed counselor and front-line peace activist, and she “truly believes in cooperation.”
Ellen sees herself as just a mother and grandmother, doing motherly and grandmotherly things about fairness. Ellen said what she is proudest of are her five children and three grandchildren.
When we were talking about being cooperative and working with others, who may not have the same point of view as ours, Ellen said, “The more fully present we can be with others, the more love comes in.”
I asked what being fully present means.
Her answer was something along the lines of the more we are able to listen and hear others and be there in the moment with them, without our judgments and defenses, the better the outcome will be. Being present allows knowledge and honesty to arise. Rather than thinking about what one is going to say next, or how “right” or “smart” one is going to sound, presence allows natural wisdom, often called love or acceptance, to fill the space. It allows people to be themselves. Presence helps us with our own self-awareness and taking responsibility for our own projections onto others, explained Ellen.
In 1980, Ellen founded the San Diego Self-Help Clearinghouse, which assisted new self-help and mutual-aid groups to form, and connected people with the grassroots support group they needed through a referral “warm line” that continues to this day. She worked with 225 non-fee groups, all based on the spirit of cooperation.
Ellen said that a highlight of her life was the mediation she and her legal counsel, the late Joe Pemberton, entered into with the city of Bellingham in 2009 in order to resolve a wrongful arrest lawsuit. Ellen had been illegally arrested at the office of Representative Rick Larsen, while reading names of Iraq war casualties. Mediation with Deputy Chief David Doll and City Attorney Peter Ruffato resulted in changes to the city’s trespass policy.
“We humans are in big trouble,” said Ellen. “Martin Luther King’s giant triplets of racism, militarism, and materialism, along with poverty and inequality, have us in a chokehold. Let the communication really begin.”
From Ellen’s nomination: She takes time to truly listen and try to understand many points of view. She is an elder who has served this community for many years by speaking truth and being willing to sacrifice her personal freedom in order to secure the rights and freedom of others. She has never tooted her own horn and it is time to toot it for her!
-Karl Meyer, Community Outreach Coordinator