Cooking Up Hope

Sunglasses on her head and a smile on her lips, Bailey has been coming to BJM’s Nail Day for quite some time, but staffer Natt has only been forming a relationship with her since last summer. “She’s so sweet and tender,” says Natt. “She’s an amazing woman.”

Bailey has openly shared a lot with Natt in the past several months. As the younger woman dabs polish on Bailey’s ring be-decked fingers, Bailey carries on conversations that are a blend of humor and sorrow, including the tragic story of the day that her husband was shot and killed, taking his last breaths as he died in Bailey’s arms. More recently, Bailey’s beloved dog passed away, leaving Bailey on her own in her tiny SRO (single room occupancy).


Bailey is a people-person at heart. One way she copes with being alone is spending time surrounded by others. She tells Natt that her favorite thing to do is going to Fisherman’s Wharf and basking in all of the people and activity that take place there.

Bailey also loves to make people smile. She has a particular penchant for telling knock-knock jokes. She intersperses these with some of the heavier stories from her life, sending out little sparks of light when the mood becomes too grave. “She’s like that fun aunt that you have,” says Natt, “her story is very sad, but she’s very independent, doing things on her own.”

Last fall that something was a cooking class. Sponsored by AAIMS (Alleviating Antipsychotic Induce Metabolic Syndrome) and held in an SRO apartment building in the Tenderloin, the course was recommended by Bailey’s therapist. Each week Bailey left mid-way through Nail Day to get lessons in food education and training in cooking healthy meals. The next week she shared with Natt the things she had learned and the dishes she had made, healthy recipes and whole meals including turkey salad pita pockets and black bean chili. Bailey recorded each of these in the teal-colored binder she brought with her.

On the final day of the course—a day whose menu included virgin mojitos, baked mac‘n cheese and a persimmon pear salad—Bailey was super excited. “I’ve never really completed anything in my life” she shared with Natt, tears in her eyes. Neither woman could have been more proud.


Now a seasoned veteran, Bailey has agreed to serve as an assistant for the next session of AAIMS cooking classes. “It’s kind of an inspiration,” says Natt, who sees herself as more quiet and reserved than her 5’4” counterpart.

“She’s been through so much but she’s trying to live life to the fullest. She hasn’t given up on anything.” Natt is grateful for the relationship that she and Bailey have formed and hopeful for the work that God will continue doing.

*names have been changed for the protection of the women and children of our community

Tate Callejas