Free Food


Today something odd happened: several times around noon someone knocked on my door & offered me free food. In about half an hour I ended up with a box of food that included a frozen pizza, frozen sausage, steak, and even lamb…! Market value? Maybe 40 or 50 dollars?

The benefactor was not very anonymous: “Pastor Debbie sent you this,” the delivery guy said. That would be Pastor Debbie of Harvest Light Ministries downstairs, a ministry that serves the homeless of Martinsburg’s downtown. HLM, perhaps not too popular because it attracts the “wrong sort,”  provides worship, food, and general guidance to a population that I would imagine hovers somewhere around a hundred (doubtless more, these days).

Thank you, Pastor Debbie and Harvest Light Ministries!

But I will admit to being somewhat perplexed, bebothered, and bewildered. Maybe I fall into HLM’s “catchment area” or maybe it’s just part of the ministry’s world view, but this is the first time I’ve received direct aid without asking. The “without asking” part may seem a minor part of the aid equation, but for adult Americans asking for help may be the single hardest thing they ever do. This is America, gosh dang it, and nice people don’t ask for help because nice people don’t need help. Unfortunately, I apparently need help just at the moment, and I still consider myself to be a reasonably nice guy.

Now HLM and I probably do not share much overlap in our theological perspectives–more’s the pity. I do (more or less regularly) attend what I consider to be one of the most liberal worship services in the area. Like the worship, love the coffee hour conversation. HLM I gather is much more on the traditional side of things. But on this issue, I have to take my hat off to them: they apparently realize that when a person needs help, you’re supposed to help them. One might think of this as the heart of hospitality and the spiritual ethic. But for some reason, almost no one else has provided tangible help. I can name those who have stepped in quickly: my mother, my therapist (a woman), the local community ministries, and the lady who helped me acquire my two cats. Readers, by the way, should take a moment and notice the gender imbalance in this list. Almost all the people who’ve stepped in are women.

Money is the hardest thing of all to discuss in the United States, the most private matter, it seems to me. But what we are talking about here is a taboo–an unconscious social prohibition acquired as a small child and only marginally amenable to discussion or reflection. As many people struggle to keep their houses, to keep themselves and their children clothed and fed, why is it that those who do not have these problems ignore those who do?

There is a spiritual dimension to all this: I am on walkabout, spirit quest, or whatever. And I am very lucky–many, many people do not have the intelligence, education, and life experiences that have been given to me–and that help me cope. I will have to do most of the repair work in my life.

But still I have to wonder: is this really the best we can do? What about the more-or-less permanently homeless? Why are we so bothered by the idea of helping other people? Why can’t we find a solution to homelessness that might actually make the homeless happy?

OK, OK. Enough of the soapbox. Time to get out some my owner’s manual and figure out the next step.    RT


Photo: Pizza; Jon Sullivan; WikiCmns; Public Domain.


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