Monday, January 05, 2009

So, tonight my wife and I went to this thing put on by Shalom Ministries that my mom had talked to us about and gotten us to volunteer for.
We finally said we'd go and see what it was that Mom was going on about and pitch in if needed.
What we encountered and came to love almost immediately was a supper for homeless and in need people.
Every Monday evening Shalom serves up a cafeteria style dinner for those who are in need. The needy don't have to be homeless. In fact, anyone can come down for what is really a very good meal. But Shalom does cater to those in serious need. It has a lot of regulars who are definate characters.
Mom, Dad, Katie and I got there late, because the snow had reduced streets during commute hour to a crawl, but I quickly found a spot on the serving line and got to hand out beets to whoever might want them (fewer than you'd think). Katie handled the coffee. Mom and Dad did the greetings at the door and made sure everyone had a seat and helped them carry food to their tables.
We met many colorful people. We met many wonderful people. We had a hard time not crying for some of the people.
As I stood and listened to a young man play the piano after he was done eating, another man walked up and stood beside me. A minute later, he got in front of me and asked me if I was scared. I said, not yet.
Insane people don't scare you? Not so much.
He looked at my shirt ( my George Bush "I bet you vote this time hippie") and said
you can't wear that here.
Why not?
They'll kill you.
Who will?
They will.
Anyone here. Everyone. You can't wear that. It's wrong. It sucks.
George Bush. he's why the poor people are still poor.
You're not reading the shirt right. It makes fun of Bush.
Oh? It still sucks.
Yeah, well, I'm going to wear it anyway.
Yeah? Til it wears out?
Sure. Til it wears out or I find another one.
It still sucks.
Good thing it's a free country then. Cuz I'm going to keep wearing it.
(pause, then shuffling in front of me as I try to walk away and blocking my progress for 30 seconds) Yeah, good thing it's a free country so I can walk wherever I want to.

He and I ended up hugging and laughing when we realized we liked each other's sense of humor. On the way out, he walked my mom across the intersection through the slushy snow and he and I hugged and laughed again after. Katie, also, told me that he was the one we saw driving in who was holding up traffic by walking down the middle of the one lane open on the street as if he was leading the parade.
One story I was told by a woman on the serving line right after we had filled the plate of a drunk Native American:
Oh, that's the guy who, a couple of months ago, got through the food line, then turned around and yelled "all you white people need to get back on the boat and go back to wherever you came from!". She didn't know whether to laugh or not at the time, but she said she couldn't help it. So, she laughed. I thought it proper, because most of us Whities don't know where we came from.

We'll be going back with my parents every Monday that we can. It felt good and right. The kid who played the piano after eating was wonderful. he just sat down and started playing. Couldn't have been 18 years of age. Probably didn't want to leave. Old folks who were politically active and passing out leaflets.

Hell of a time. And the volunteers were cool, too. No boundaries, no commonalities. Just friendly.
Just happy.

Just wanting to help.