Sparing the time on Sunday afternoon is not always easy. FNB usually comes between playing for the youth service at church (10:30 – 10:45) and practice for the same service next week (3:00 – 4:00). So I rush home, set the brew kettle (which doubles as a pasta pot) on high, cook up the meat and pasta, hustle downtown to be there around 1:00 with spaghetti. I don’t eat red meat, haven’t for years, but my son Devin proofs out the spaghetti for me. Today he said it was “magnificent”. He’s easy.
Today was more special because my teaching buddy Tameka called the day before and asked when the serving began. I was excited. But what if I had talked it up too much? What if she didn’t see what I saw there? I was also pleased about her coming because she was bringing her beautiful daughter Alani. I think she’s 4. Alani’s a little shy but has given me some pretty easy hugs the last few times we have seen each other. There aren’t many little ones there and I knew she’d stick close to Mom.
When I arrived, Tameka and Alani weren't there. Maybe something else came up. I set down my pot next to two women with broccoli and chicken. They’re from South Korea. I see them every time I go. I hunkered down next to a couple guys playing chess. This one guy with a cane and stocking cap and dark glasses and gloves with the fingertips cut off brings his chess set nearly every week. He’s good too.
When it was time we all pulled on our plastic gloves and the line began to move. There was an extra pot of cheesy/tomatoey macaroni next to me and for a little while I was serving from both my pot and the mac.
Then I heard Tameka’s familiar voice from behind. Ira, who sort of runs the show (as much as anyone) introduced us. “This is Tameka. She’s here to serve.” Alani hugged my leg in greeting. Tameka put on plastic gloves and took over serving the macaroni. There were a lot of people serving today. We had to sort of stand sideways to all fit together. It feels good to share the physical warmth, being so close together, as well as the emotional warmth from the simple fellowship of FNB. Anyone who goes for a few times feels it.
At first Alani was at a bit of a loss. She was shy and clung to Tameka’s leg. Of course that made her even cuter and folks coming through the line would comment and ask her name. Shy silence was all they got. But she did bring some light that would not have been there otherwise. After a while Tameka and Alani were serving together. It was one of those simple but incredibly beautiful scenes that I cherish more and more these days. Alani was much too small to serve on her own. She stood well below the top of the pot. Tameka had her hand around Alani’s. Tameka’s strong adult hand guided the wooden serving spoon, holding the spoon with Alani, serving pasta to hungry people. Serving hungry people. Serving.
What a great mom. What a wonderful example of how a parent can show through her own actions, the way to live. What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Serving. What a marvelous way to spend a life.
When we said goodbye I had a different feeling than the usual one when we part ways at school every afternoon. I got to see this cool side of Tameka that I don’t get to see in the usual day to day. I am even gladder now to be her friend.