Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Bread on Main
On Mondays at 5.30 p.m., the church down the road hosts a community meal. At 3.30 p.m. the volunteers gather to prepare the food. They're a great bunch of people. Salt of the earth and I enjoy seeing them every six weeks when our team's turn comes up. Chris is our cook. In her late sixties, she is small and mighty. There's Bonnie, Gwen, Nancy, Bev, Lynn, Angie and Elizabeth. Some chatty. Others quiet. But all very efficient. We wash and chop food, set tables for 100, bag donated baked goods to hand out, butter bread, make coffee and cold beverages and whatever else needs to be done. On the other side of the hall are the men: Dan, Steve head that team. They wash dishes at lightning speed.
4.30 p.m. we let the guests in for tea and coffee. They walk in from all walks of life carrying luggage that they can't let go. Addictions. Mental illnesses. Bad choices. Poverty. Loneliness. They sit alone or with others. The church basement is transformed into a giant dining room filled with noise, chatter and even laughter.
5.00 p.m. we serve an appetizer. Maybe an egg roll. Cheese and crackers. Whatever the budget can afford.
5.30 p.m. we set up two food stations. Steve says a few words, a blessing and invites everyone up for food. While dishing out food, I greet everyone lightheartedly all the while carefully observing the different individual before me. I don't want to sound morbid but, it is a fascinating exercise in social study. Some are rude. Some are funny. Some are sad. Some are absent. Some are abused. Some are high. Some are dirty. Some are proud. Some are friendly. Some are angry. Some are just like you and me. How on earth did they get here?
Many I recognize from the homeless shelter. Caught up in this vicious circle, they can't find a way out. There's a whisper of a woman by the name of Dawn. Tragically, last Christmas, her boyfriend beat her to a pulp. Although she ended up on the street, Dawn made sure that her cat had a safe home with a friend. During the winter months, she struggled to put her life back together. In March, I heard that she moved into a place of her own. Good. Very good. Dawn was at the church this week. She coloured her beautiful red hair charcoal black. Thin, she shakes so badly that I think she can't bare the weight of her plate of food. Her face and arms are bruised. Hospital bracelets ornate her left wrist. One white. The other yellow. I feel sadness. I say hello and see a trace of recognition in her blue eyes. Then I see defeat and helplessness. I look for the right words and say: "Enjoy your dinner Dawn, it will do you good." Sadly, I don't think that eight meatballs, some rice, carrots and broccoli will fix everything that this woman faces.