Thursday, October 9, 2008

Every day's a birthday party

I got to act silly yesterday.

I made funny faces and uttered strange sounds. But the 4-month-old infant enjoyed it, breaking into big smiles and flailing his arms. His light grey eyes locked on mine, curious and completely open.

I was privileged to be reduced to a babbling fool so that his mom could go get a tray of food. She returned with soup, sandwich and cookies, and was joined by two other women who fussed over the child.

Other volunteers mingled with the guests, chatting, saying how good it was to see them, and laughing. Kitchen volunteers occasionally helped guests with their trays – a young mother with kids, a scruffy older gentleman with a cane.

They were among the 85 guests Wednesday.

Watching over the dining room were two Vietnam vets – former Marines – who liked to jovially kibitz with guests, especially some of the men.

A little earlier the former Marines were bowing their heads in prayer, joining the other volunteers for a few minutes of spiritual reflection before opening the doors of the soup kitchen.

Joanne Lockwood, the volunteer daytime supervisor, read a spiritual passage about being content with what one has. Coveting what others have is not being content.

That thought “is anti-cultural” is today’s society, she said. We want more, we want bigger, we want better.

There was discussion of woes and ills afflicting the world – from selfishness to genocide. There’s a need for sacrificial love, one said. This soup kitchen is an example of sacrificial love for hungry neighbors.

Several spoke of how well the volunteer staff treats the guests. Like family.

“They’ve come to trust us,” one said.

“Some say they’ve never been treated so well,” another offered.

“As Franciscans,” Joanne added, “we try to give birth to Christ in everything we do. West Side Kitchen is showing the fruits of that.”

There’s joy, she said; there’s confidence building; there’s the Spirit.

“It’s as though we’re having a birthday party every day.”