On Sundays I usually head downtown (in Columbia, SC) to work with this cool group called Food Not Bombs. A bunch of people meet there, each with a big old pot of food, to feed whoever shows up. It is one of the highlights of my week. I'm not a member per se. I just come. Usually with a big pot of pasta. I crank up my brew kettle and do a big batch of "bachelor food". Sometimes its mac and cheese ( x12 boxes), other times its spaghetti with a bunch of plain sauce and whatever is around the kitchen. A couple pounds of hamburger or ground turkey. Fresh garlic, tomatoes (some from my modest garden if there are any ripe ones). It is a wonderful, eclectic bunch of people who serve, and those who show up to eat as well. The servers are usually a bunch of lefties who are proud of it. We talk politics, all current events, what's happening at our churches (if we attend) - you know, all of the things that you aren't supposed to bring up with new friends and acquaintances. Usually it all goes well.
Between 125 and 150 folks show up to eat every week. Those folks are as diverse as you can imagine. Homeless, well dressed straight from church, old people, children with their parents, young guys just down on their luck, etc. A few weeks ago I met a man who has lived in a tent for quite some time. One regular guy is really old. He walks bent over with the aid of a walker. When I introduced myself to him he said his name and, proudly, "...the grandson of a slave."
In the middle of the summer, when the weather is steamy, some can get a little cranky. A few weeks ago was one of those days. It had to be near 100 and tempers were flaring a bit. There may have been a little shoving, some taking two plates, some cutting in line. What are you gonna do? Anyway, a little man came through the line with his shirt around his waist. His body was glistening with sweat. He had two plates, one for himself and one for his "pal". By the time he got to us his hands were completely full. (If you get there early, you leave full -it's practically guaranteed). Sweat was pouring down his face and into his eyes. He could hardly see. It was obvious that he was one of the poorer ones. He had on blue jeans with ripped out knees and the sweatshirt tied around his waist was dirty and tattered. By the time he got in front of me he literally could not see for the sweat pouring in his eyes. His frustration was palpable. Two paper plates of food he had nowhere to put down and blinded by his own sweat. It wasn't an emergency or anything, just a really uncomfortable moment for him. There was a very poor woman behind him. Her clothes were extremely worn and dirty. Her hair hadn't been washed in a while. He paused and pulled over from the food line, turned to the side to try to blink the sweat out of his eyes. The woman behind him reached out. Reached out. "Here," she said simply. As he faced her she took her hand and wiped his head and face. He looked at her with gratitude. It was a simple act. A kind act. Then she wiped her sweaty hand on her shirt. Out of context, that probably seems gross. It wasn't apparent that they knew each other. He was African American, she was white. He mumbled his thanks and moved on down the serving line.
She stood in front of me holding out her plate for my spaghetti. "That was so kind," I said. "So sweet."
She looked a little embarrassed. "It's just that God has been so good to me," she said. "So very good. I have so much to be thankful for."
The girl serving next to me recognized the beauty in that little moment as well. "This is my church on Sunday," she explained.
I totally related to her sentiments. This was one of those ordinary things that happen from time to time that remind me of how blessed I am. This woman was poor by most American standards. She wiped the sweaty face of a stranger and seemed humbled when her act of kindness was recognized. She was thankful to God for her blessings. Her blessings.
As I walk toward my car each Sunday with my empty pot and spoon, I see this sign posted by the Food Not Bombians. Note that it was written a long time ago. By a Republican president. So much truth.
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." Dwight D. Eisenhower - The Chance for Peace April 16, 1953