sister

Living By Faith and Being a Good Sibling: An Interview With My Brother

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Every once in a while, we are fortunate enough to have someone in our lives who always seems to know the right thing to say, who challenges us to be a better person, and who loves us unconditionally, despite having seen us through our awkward middle school days and angst-ridden teenage years. For me, that person is my brother, Fred Hadra.

Nearly four years my junior, I would not characterize our relationship growing up as “close.” We fought over everything and had very little use for each other during our days at home together. As adults, however, we talk weekly, text often; and, just this month, have called each other for advice on multiple occasions. (Somewhere, our mother’s heart is exploding.)

The way my brother and his wife, Teesha, live their lives is a constant inspiration to me. Two years ago, the two of them left their comfortable existence as DINKs (“double income, no kids”) in Atlanta, GA for a smaller, more humble existence in Pasadena, CA. (Think 500 square foot apartment, no car and meager salaries.) Their reason for making this change? They wanted to live a more intentional life that kept them open and available to what God might have for them.

Today, Teesha is finishing up the manuscript for her first book and Fred is two months into starting a non-profit—the Pasadena Community Supper Club—that provides meals and faith-based community service to the poor and marginalized in Pasadena. Below, my brother shares a bit more about their lives, their new endeavors and how their faith plays into every aspect of what they do.

Jenn Prentice (JP): Oh, hello brother dear. Thanks for joining me in this space. Can you tell everyone a little bit about you and Teesha?

Fred Hadra (FH): We are the artists currently known as Teesha and Fred. We have been married for about 2.5 years, during which time we upended our quite comfortable lives in Atlanta, GA, and moved across the country to southern California in order for Teesha to attend school full-time at Fuller Theological Seminary, where she is pursuing her Masters of Divinity degree in preparation for pastoral work, and possible/likely ordination. I (Fred) cheekily refer to my wife as a recovering attorney, pastor-in-training, soon-to-be-published author, ordinary radical, and somewhat reluctant occupier of the limelight.

I have been enjoying semi-retirement for about two years, since moving to Cali. It allows me much more time to practice what I like to call Artisanal House Husbandry  I “work” from home selling podcast advertising to help pay the bills, and spend the remainder of my time sorting out life’s daily detritus, including some cleaning but with a heavy emphasis on and interest in cooking. We recently started a small nonprofit called Pasadena Community Supper Club, through which we prepare and serve community dinners at a nearby low-income housing facility.

JP: You just served your third dinner through the Pasadena Community Supper Club. Tell me more about the organization—how it started and where you are hoping to see it go in the future.

FH: Pasadena Community Supper Club is an outgrowth of friendships formed through the breaking of bread.

Myself, Teesha and our friends Corey, and Brooks (the founders) - together with respective spouses and other friends - met through a weekly church-sponsored community group. It became clear rather quickly that the dinner portion of our time together was an entrée (pun intended) for deep conversations about our shared faith and the call to love one another, particularly the poor and marginalized around the city.

However, a tension arose: how to reconcile the material poverty we saw on the streets with the meals we ate together each week at our community group? While never extravagant, the food we prepared and served to each other required time and disposable income. All our talk finally turned into action, and we started volunteering together through Union Station Homeless Services’ Adopt-a-Meal program. The goal? Serve the same quality of food we enjoyed each week to the shelter's guests.

The conversations, the Adopt-a-Meals - and, yes, the weekly dinners - continued, and gradually the outline of a more ambitious plan emerged. The group, with the support of friends and family, local churches, and other organizations, would put the pieces in place to serve more people, more often.

The Pasadena Community Supper Club officially launched on July 22, 2018, with a dinner and faith-based community service for the residents of Centennial Place, a supportive residence for formerly homeless citizens of Pasadena. The Club’s dinners will continue on the fourth Sunday of each month at Centennial Place, made possible by the generosity of volunteers and donors.

As financial support grows and new opportunities arise, Pasadena Community Supper Club will expand its dinner events to serve more people in the Pasadena and greater Los Angeles area.

JP: In the past three years, you've gone from being DINKS with two cars in a large townhouse in Atlanta, GA to now living off of two partial salaries, with no car in a 500 square foot apartment in Pasadena. How does your faith play into the things you are doing—or not doing—and the way you are spending your money? 

FH: Faith in God’s design for our lives and desire that we serve those around us is the primary motivating factor in our decision making, which included our decision to get married, to move to California, and to do things such as (but we hope not limited to) starting a nonprofit that serves the poor and write books that breaks the chains that bind us and divide us. 

Money is, at root, a faith issue. It’s about trusting God to provide for our needs, even when we also feel led to, say, spend thousands of dollars of our own money to get a new project off the ground. It’s about the courage to not pursue any and every professional opportunity, because while doing so may be lucrative, it may also preclude you from being able to serve the more immediate needs of others to which God wants you to attend. It also means sacrificing your desires - say, to go on a really cool trip, or to buy this or that perfectly legitimate thing - because it’s not the right time. Materially speaking, the greatest sacrifice we had made in the last ~2 years is in not having a car. Essentially that was and continues to be a financial decision, as car payments, insurance, gas, upkeep, etc. are all expensive. It would have torn through our savings at a much faster rate. I’ve partly justified the no-car decision as one of lifestyle. Where we live is walkable, and in many day to day scenarios, driving to run an errand would take as much or more time than walking, and you would have to pay $10 in parking. Presently, it’s looking as though it might be necessary that we get a car in order to facilitate some of the work we’re doing for the nonprofit, but even if we do make that change, our intent will be to look at a car truly as a tool, or as a means, something we use intentionally and not something we use mindlessly or frivolously to engender poor time or financial decisions.

JP: What are your recommendations to people who are looking to downsize? What about people who are making a cross country move? What would you recommend to them? 

FH: My recommendation is not to think about it too much. Just do it, as they say. You will always find reasons NOT to make decisions that force you to feel uncomfortable, but in reality, they will actually liberate you from ways of thinking and being that are holding you back, without even knowing it. As I wrote earlier, selling all your stuff, quitting your job, and moving across the country into a tiny house (or the equivalent) is not the right decision for everyone. And if you’re married, and if you have kids, you have to think about the full range of what that will mean for the futures of the people for whose lives you bear some mutual responsibility. The answer is not always “Do it!” That being said, it’s always worth asking “Why not?” Be brutally honest about what’s holding you back, as well as what’s pushing you into something. Those motivations, the pushes and pulls, may in fact be selfish, or merely silly, but at least you and your spouse or other life stakeholders will know. They probably have their own selfish or silly reasons for wanting or not wanting to do something as well.

JP: Last question. At the end of your life, what do you hope people say about you? What type of legacy are you hoping to leave? 

FH: I want to be remembered as someone willing to sacrifice and do hard things for the sake of others. Life is hard. But we, as followers of Christ, especially privileged ones who have the privilege to think about their lives in terms of significance and legacy, are called to do hard things. Not out of a sense of guilt, though sometimes a little guilt is not a bad thing. So, get a move on. 

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Last week, Fred and I were talking about what helps the two of us maintain a close relationship. As I mentioned above, we weren’t that close growing up, so developing a strong relationship in adulthood is something we’ve worked hard at doing. While there’s no magic bullet for improving a sibling relationship, we both agreed that 95% of having a good relationship is just about showing up: Talking regularly. Texting back. Making plans to spend time together—and actually doing it.

To be honest, my brother and I don’t actually have that much in common; but what we do share is a deep love for one another and a belief that at the end of the day, family is one of the only things you’ve got. Once we started being intentional about our relationship, finding common ground became easier.

I realize that some sibling relationships are beyond repair; but for those of you who don’t have much of a reason why you’re not close with your brother or sister, I’d encourage you to give them a call today and start putting in the time and effort to grow closer. I promise you won’t regret it!