This morning, Ray and I were up at 5:30 so that we could be at St. Thomas the Apostle, Hollywood by 6 in order to prepare a hot meal for the homeless by 8. Already, one volunteer, Nora, was waiting for us and two of our homeless patrons as well when we opened the door to the parish hall. Immediately, Ray and I assessed the food that had been delivered yesterday by a local food pantry and then Ray headed off to Smart and Final to buy whatever else we needed. Meantime, Nora started washing potatoes so we could put them through the food processor for sliced potatoes and cheese (one of everyone’s favorite dishes) and I pulled out pots and pans for eggs and whatever else we’d be serving. I then went through the two refrigerators and freezer to see what we could make with what we had been given. By that time, several other volunteers had arrived and went to work on food preparation as well as setting up for serving the meal. Our menu today was scrambled eggs; cubed ham; sliced potatoes covered in cheese; spicy wedged potatoes; warm artisan sandwiches made with bacon and ham; warm cinnamon rolls; freshly grilled onions, peppers, and tomatoes; canned peaches and fresh apples. Yum.
Our patrons were happy. We were happy. All of us volunteers received many heartfelt thank-you’s for cooking, serving, and cleaning up. Ray and I returned home at 10 am, tired but glad that we’d done our small part in making life a little better for a few.
Some people say that it’s only a band-aid to feed homeless people, that we’re not really making a big difference in anyone’s life. I do appreciate that we have to tackle the bigger issue of homelessness in our society head-on so that we can eradicate this problem, once and for all. After all, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, having people who line up to eat free food because they are truly hungry is an outrage. We, as a society, need to figure out how to care for those who have fallen through the cracks and need real help. But policy-making is one thing, hunger is another. Why? Because if you haven’t eaten in a few hours, your body needs food to function properly. And a few hours after you’ve eaten that meal, guess what? You need to eat again. Hence our band-aid.
Ray and I have been participating in the St. Thomas “Breakfast Club” for a long time – almost 18 years – and, believe it or not, there are some people coming to our breakfast who we met 18 years ago. While their circumstances may have improved slightly, they have not found a solid enough footing to forgo that early morning breakfast offering every second and fourth Saturday of the month. They still need it to get through their day. Many of our patrons are not homeless, but simply too poor to buy enough food to be properly nourished on a daily basis. Any food that goes uneaten, gets packed up and sent with our patrons so they can make it through a few more meals. Again, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world…
I don’t have many answers. I just know that providing nourishment for those in need is a worthy way to spend my time twice a month. If I had more time, money, resources, etc., I hope I’d do more. But for now, I’ll settle for doing what I can when I can for those who need some help. I will trust that my small contribution to the world is good enough.
Besides, as we all know, when you need a band-aid, it really does help, even if only for a little while. Sometimes, it’s just what you need so that real healing can begin.