People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. – Luke 13:29 (NIV)
I returned to The Gathering with Youngest today. While it wasn’t a “feast,” it was a full meal. I know I already blogged about my experience at The Gathering (you can read it here), but I found more things I like about being a part of what they are doing.
Once again, we were put to work as soon as we arrived. We filled glasses with juice and then made juice for the next two days – which ended up being a good thing, because we ran out of juice and needed to use it today. After that, we washed up tomatoes for lunch. All available hands are kept busy. This is a good stewardship.
Most of the tomatoes we received were pretty green. We sorted out the few that were ripe. One of the regulars came to get them. I thought he was preparing them for lunch. But, no. We were serving salad this morning and it the lettuce was looking pretty lonely. So he started dicing up tomatoes to add some color and flavor. This gentleman wanted to make this meal more enjoyable for those who would receive it. This is hospitality.
I grabbed a knife and we diced together as he told me about why he started serving at The Gathering. A few months ago he was out of work and wanted to do something useful with his free time. He began to come once a week, then two times. Soon he found himself there almost every day. He’s working now, but is still serving breakfast on a regular basis. Like many who serve, he found meaning in the work he did and community with those he did it with.
Youngest served toast, and I poured coffee and milk. Because I was on the end, I had a chance to look out over the guests as they ate. The unfortunate thing was that the room was largely segregated – not completely but enough to be noticeable. What was more noticeable, however, were the conversations that were taking place.
I’m guessing that most of the guests are here every morning. Being a free meal, it could feel institutional. But no one hurries the guests in line, nor to finish eating. Somehow, there is always room for someone to sit down. People are sharing stories and laughing in the same way you and I would when we sat down to share a meal together. Maybe this is what you would expect, but I think there is a perception that the homeless, the working poor, the elderly are sad or emotionless (since we often see the homeless just sitting on the streets).
But they are just like us.
Some folks are pretty quiet until they get their coffee. Some pass on the bakery items because they don’t like sweets. Some like hot sauce on their entrée and others want it as is. Some conversations are serious and some are filled with laughter. As the line began to wind down, there were groups of two or three scattered across the tables enjoying the last of their coffee and conversation before they headed out for their day.
As we were getting ready to leave, George (The Gathering staff) asked Youngest how it was. Youngest replied, “I’ll be back. I’ll definitely be back.” I’m glad his experience was the same as mine.
If you are looking for a place to serve, I definitely recommend The Gathering. Because they have several locations and serve meals at different times of the day (including lunch on Saturday), there is probably a time and place that will work for you.