When the rear door of the mobile soup kitchen slides up and I see the faces of the people lined up outside waiting for food, it’s as if a powerful energy and grace flow from them into me.
Tonight, my daughter, Mandy, sent along two new plush stuffed animals in case there were children in the food lines of the mobile soup kitchen, and at City Hall Plaza, the first two people in line were children. The soup kitchen director asked if she could be the one to give them the toys. A girl, about seven, chose the lion, and her brother, who looked to be around four, embraced the gray monkey and held it tight. Someone in the crowd around him said, “Look, he doesn’t even care about food! He just wants the monkey!” And the homeless people surrounding him laughed in a carefree way and shared for a moment in his joy.
We had enough food so that at the last stop, some people were able to come through the line three or four times. Some of the cookies had gotten wet, and, when the crisp cookies were gone, I scooped up the soggy bits in my plastic-gloved hands to throw them away, but people stopped me, asking for what was now ‘goo,’ so I opened my hands and they scooped it out, eating it eagerly.
Then, as we were closing up the back of the truck — all the sandwiches, soup, bananas, and nearly every cookie crumb having been given away — a man hurried up to the truck, looking as if he’d come from a distance. “Am I too late?” he said. “We’re so sorry, everything’s gone,” we told him. He was very lean and weathered and obviously hungry. He struggled to hide his disappointment, and succeeded. “Well, I just got here too late, it’s OK,” he said, as we apologized again. It was heartbreaking.
It occurred to me while driving to the bookstore for my ritual hot cocoa, a metaphorical foot still in the ‘street’ world but edging back into the reality of north Dallas, that it is dangerous to look out at the faces of the people lined up outside our mobile feeding truck and think that their being homeless is an acceptable and inevitable reality. One must, I think, keep sharp in one’s mind that solutions must always be sought to homelessness and hunger, even if they’re never found. One cannot acquiesce.
Am tired, drained, going home. I am so grateful that I have one.