By Jeff Johnson
Talk to people around the Occupy KC site and they will tell you that nobody works harder than Linda Miller. “I guess that’s why I’m so damn tired and cranky all the time,” says Miller. Using donations from supporters of the Movement, and with help from other Occupiers, Miller, 38, cooks for and feeds between 30 and 50 people on site each day.
“I’m the camp cook, but some people call me the kitchen Nazi.” Apparently, Miller runs a tight ship. She used to run the graveyard shift at the diner Nichols Lunch, until it closed in 2006.
Of late, Miller has been unable to find work. “I would take any job I could get, but preferably inside.” Miller has worked elsewhere since Nichols, but the loss of her position there came during a difficult decade for Miller; her mother, father, grandmother and husband all passed away.
Miller joined Occupy KC having no idea what it was about. “I’ve never been political. In my section [while she was waiting tables]I didn’t allow talk of sports, politics or religion.” She saw the October 9th march down Broadway and just joined in, even though she had a cast on her leg up to her thigh. “It was slow going,” said Miller.
At the rally after the march, she listened to an anti-nuclear weapons speech, and that night she grabbed some blankets and tarps and settled in for the night. Since then, she has been part of the Occupy KC community. “It was pretty mindboggling being down here the first few days,” says Miller. “There were a lot of people talking. It just blurred into one big conversation.” She said it was a week before she understood why people were there.
When asked about her concerns with the system, Miller replies, “Jobs would be nice.”
Miller says she was “raised dirt poor,” started working at age 13, and knew a better standard of living for a time when she managed apartment buildings with her mother. Now she contributes to Occupy KC by serving on the Town Planning and Peace Keeping workgoups.
Miller says she may have an opportunity to take a traveling job in the spring. In the meantime, at Occupy KC she experiences a welcome sense of community. Last week, after serving Thanksgiving dinner at camp, she joined Occupiers in a “mic check” of area Walmarts for Black Thursday, where she said they attempted to spread the message that the “meaning of Christmas is not in greed, or money, or power. It’s about loving one another. You don’t have to buy things to share that.” She said the cashiers were receptive. The shoppers, not so much.