Guest: “You don’t have to do this.”
Me: “Excuse me?”
Guest: “You don’t have to do this, do you?”
As director of the Southside Community Kitchen, my weekly duties include creating the menu, purchasing food, equipment and supplies, transporting and serving food from our kitchen to our second serving site. So far on this day I had done all of this—before 11:30 am. After a day of rushing around, taking care of business so we could be ready to serve lunch to our guests at 11:30, hearing, “You don’t have to do this,” stopped me in my tracks.
One of our regular guests, a lovely African American grandmother, very quiet and kind broke through my business with these words. “You don’t have to do this.” Between my thoughts of how many more plates to bring to the table, and beverage orders, and trying not to drop plates of food on the floor, I was being called out. “You don’t have to do this.” I responded, “Excuse me? What do you mean I don’t have to do this?”
She said simply, “You don’t have to do this do you?”
Honestly, no I didn’t have to be doing this – or did I? I have a loving family, I have a college degree, I have a good work history, I have a nice home, money for food, transportation, and clothes. I could be doing something else with my time, except my faith journey has led me to this. Being open to the spirits call, taking the teachings of Jesus seriously, and living with intention has led me to this work with people living at the margins of society. I choose to do this work because I have been called to feed his lambs.
- People who every day struggle mightily just to get out of bed because of age, infirmity, chronic disease, or injury.
- People who have fallen through the cracks in our education system, our healthcare system, our society, or are stuck in destructive patterns and situations.
- People who have faced trauma, addiction, and abuse and experienced the chains of poverty.
- People who don’t quite fit into society neatly and completely.
- People who lack the skills, will, or physical ability to prepare meals at home.
- People who are starved for love attention.
- People who hunger for fellowship and a place in the community.
- People who seek a free meal and who find nourishment for their spirits.
Our guest was right – my life includes choices – and I choose to do this work not because I must, but because I am able.
Everyone who comes to the Southside Community Kitchen has a place at our table. As our guests leave, I pray they have found more than food in this place. I pray they have made some deeper connections, set down some of their burdens, and leave knowing they are a beloved child of God. I am so grateful for all the churches, individuals, grants, and those who give of the time and money to support our vital mission.