Sunday, June 15, 2008

Let the Little Children Come to Me

By Mary and Robert Stronach, SFO

Wayne, our legally blind guest, was laughing and conversing with volunteer Jim Caldwell between sips of soup. He mentioned he had been on the phone with Protective Services that morning.

“They told me to get my butt right over there,” after learning he had been living on the street for 47 days.

“But I thought I would get something to eat first.”

Across the room, volunteer Katie Koscinski, SFO, was playing “high-fives” with a giggling 3-year-old. His 6-year-old sister came rushing over with a big smile to take a turn at slapping Katie’s hand. Their mom, a refugee who speaks very little English, smiled as she nibbled on a sandwich.

The poignant truth is that children come to the Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen. Some are infants and some, a little older. It’s not unusual to have as many as six or seven on any given day. Shortly, when school is out, we fully expect those numbers to go up. For the most part, our children are very well behaved. They sit close to Mommy or Daddy, quietly enjoying their soup and sandwich.

We are happy to see them…to know that they are having a nutritious lunch. And part of us wants to scream, “Why? Why should our little children have to know that hunger is real? Why should they even know what a soup kitchen is?”

Everything should be sunshine and daisies for them. They should feel safe and secure, knowing that Mommy and Daddy will always be there for them.

Life is not so easy for some families. Dad or mom may have lost a job. The spiraling price of oil and gas has affected the cost of transportation, utilities, food and just about every product we use. The dollar just doesn’t go as far. And our children are affected. They now come to the soup kitchen. It’s part of their daily routine, just like playing with toys or taking a nap.

When you come right down to it, West Side Kitchen came at just the right time. It is a blessing. And, we have our children close to us – safe and secure at the parish center.

When you come right down to it, it’s a miracle we have them with us, rather than in an empty apartment with an empty refrigerator.

When you come right down to it, they bring us joy. The volunteers play with them and laugh. And the other guests smile every time they see a child. Isn’t that the way it should be?

Christ said, “Let the little children come to me.”

They are here, Lord. Keep them safe.