Wayne came into the the soup kitchen Wednesday without his white cane. He’s legally blind, so it’s always with him. Like his infectious smile.
“I lost it,” he said simply. His smile was gone, too.
What he didn’t say was that he lost it in the West Utica fire the night before, which left four people dead and others homeless – including Wayne.
The volunteers, mostly Secular Franciscans who staff the soup kitchen every Wednesday, were grateful for the chance to pray together for the victims of the fire -- even before we discovered that we knew some of them: as soup kitchen guests.
We gathered to remind ourselves why we were there, seeing the love and mercy of Christ all around us. The volunteers do this every day before opening the soup kitchen doors. Joanne, a Franciscan in formation and the kitchen’s quality control coordinator, offered a reflection on the meaning of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis. Her soft voice embraced the words, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
Joining us in prayer was an unexpected visitor – Capt. Frank Picciotto, who runs The Salvation Army soup kitchen, food pantry and social service programs on Clinton Place on the other side of town. Captain Frank dropped by to congratulate the parish on starting the soup kitchen, saying we all are working for the same purpose. He offered his blessings to all of us, and said he hoped there would be opportunities for collaboration.
But what struck us more than his words was a simple, impulsive act. One of our guests said he needed a belt to hold up his pants. Captain Frank immediately removed the belt from his own pants and gave it to the man.