Thursday, June 07, 2007

Feeding the Hungry

And no, despite the recent post about food addiction I'm not talking about filling my own face. Yesterday after work I hurried home to change clothes to join some people from my church who were going to the Union Gospel Mission to serve dinner. There were three messages on my home phone and one was from SLA wanting to go out to eat! I wanted to call her back but didn't have time, plus I knew I would be really tempted to just forgo the dinner-serving thing and go out to get dinner served to me! SLA is such a persuasive talker and it wouldn't have taken much to change my mind. Especially since I had not committed or told anyone, because I'm seldom sure whether or not I will have to stay at work late.

Eating an apple, I drove back across the bridge to the church, where I was told by the woman I sat next to in church last Sunday, the Outreach group meets on a particular side of the huge auditorium. I waved at the office woman who was talking on the phone as I passed by. Turns out it was a good thing that I did. I sat and waited and nobody showed up! Then a troop of college-aged people went across the auditorium on the other side, up to the stage. The office woman, who knew I was there came over to tell me that the Outreach group probably just met right at the Mission, but that some of these college people would be going there, too. She said she would be back in 5 minutes.

It seemed like a long wait but was only about 10 minutes or so. I had not brought my purse or notebook or anything to do while sitting there, figuring that there might not be a place to store those things while I was serving. I found out that the college people had received instructions, so I wondered what I had missed and if there was anything I should know about this task. Just because I was much older than them didn't mean that I knew what to do and what to watch out for, I had never done anything like this before. I was getting a bit nervous about it and more than once thought of just leaving, going back home and calling SLA and going out to eat!

But at last we all trooped down to the Mission. We had to squeeze through crowds of people waiting behind a roped-off entrance. We were welcomed in the kitchen and told we would be serving trays. I asked if the plates to be put on the trays were all served up and the head kitchen person affirmed that. But I quickly found out that the trays she was talking about were segmented so that the tray served as a plate for each person, like a picnic plate with hollowed out places for the food, utinsels, etc. We servers would line up and take the trays out to each person. The people crowded in and sat down, and they kept coming. We kept lining up and bringing up trays to anyone who didn't have a tray in front of them. The tables were close together and the chairs sprawled out so it was tricky getting some of those trays in to the intended person!

We were asked to mingle with the crowd after the serving was done. Many of the college people hung back, and I don't blame them. They were young, cute girls and the crowd was mostly men, rough and scary-looking! I found a friendly-faced older woman and sat with her. She was talking to a guy whose wife had dropped him off downtown after a fight. He had been in town for 3 days with no money or transportaton. But after he left the older woman said he had been wandering down by the lake drinking for those past 3 days. One of the younger woman came and sat with us and the older woman told us about the "regulars" of which she said she'd been one for too long. She said that they try lots of tricks to fool the naive "church ladies" to get more food, supplies and things they need. She meant us two as the "church ladies" and it was sad, but informative to hear some of the ways people try to survive.

All in all the depth of poverty was shocking to me--and I've been poor. But never to the extent that these people were poor, many were homeless had nowhere to clean up or change clothes. The older woman had a basket-type thing on wheels with clothes and all sorts of things in it. She carefully wrapped up the donut that was for dessert, "for later" she told us and tucked it into an elaborate sytem of bags and tarps in the basket. She pulled out a hat and a wrinkled coat before leaving (it was raining outside) and told us goodbye and left.

We cleaned up the room and tables and then went home. I had hoped we could eat after serving but apparently they meet early and eat before serving. When back home, I called SLA but she had already eaten. The whole experience made me think a lot about poverty, hunger and homelessness.


Blogger Dale said...

It's amazing how some folks struggle for basic necessities. We're so incredibly wealthy in comparison, PB, and so fortunate. That was a good thing you did and I'll bet it was more satisfying than an overpriced restaurant meal with SLA. Will you volunteer again?

7:35 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

Your post made me take a long hard look at my life. Thank you....

8:46 AM  
Blogger Walker said...

I have served at the mission here at Thanksgiving a couple of times and after a food heist the boys pulled off years ago I bought a side of beef and had them leave it at the door of the Salvation army kitchen.
There are many people, some with children who have no food to eat on a regular basis.
I have had and still have friends that go there to eat.
I refuse to give money to beggars on the street because most want to buy drugs or booze but I have fed a couple that I have known for awhile.
In the winter many opt to get arrested to have a warm bed and meal because they can’t survive in the –40 temps we get here.
It was good of you to stop by and help these people and yes they will try and outsmart you and get more food or even talk you into giving them money.
You have to be tough and stand your ground because they will do it to you all the time even if they see you on the street.
It’s sad to think that we can’t feed our people but we can waste money on other things.

Have a nice day

9:01 AM  
Blogger BikerCandy said...

Thought provoking post PB. It does make me sad, I've been poor before but never like that.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

It's sad. Things like that make me realize how blessed I really am.

9:38 AM  
Blogger dan said...

having been through bankruptcy i consider myself lucky to have managed to stay off of the streets.

it's a place that's very difficult to get back from.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

You inspire me PBS. You're always willing to help so many people, and you're always trying new things. I love reading about the new and 'exciting' things you do. It never worries you to roll up your sleeves and muck in regardless of what's going on. I love that about you!

4:24 AM  

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