Today was an interesting day, church wise.
I'm a member at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Denver, Colorado where I'm also the volunteer coordinator for the Sunday Meal Program (SMP), which needs a new name. Each Sunday morning St. Paul's serves an average of 150 meals to the homeless and food insecure of Denver.
Monday through Saturday around 40 locations are available to grab a free meal across the Denver metro. That number drops to 5 or 6 on Sunday. Why such a dip on Sunday? Without delving into it, I'm not sure if religious obligation trumping the command to be merciful is at play here, but I wouldn't be surprised. I won't go down that tangent for now, but suffice it to say St. Paul's program is a vital resource for those who might not otherwise find a place to eat on Sunday.
Much of the food we typically serve at SMP is sourced from food banks. While this allows us to provide a meal each Sunday at a very low cost, often the food itself is low quality, and it is almost never what anyone would call "breakfast food." Honestly, it can be a pretty dreary affair. No one is particularly overjoyed to be there. Considering what the very part-time chef has to work with, it's kind of amazing that the food is ever better than simply edible, but it can still be pretty so-so.
Let's just say it isn't exactly going to lift anyone's spirits.
So, as a test case, this Sunday we wanted to take out all the stops and provide breakfast for our guests, with the goal of having real breakfast every Sunday. With the help of a member or two, a good guy named Adam who is passionate about serving those in need, a big donation from out of state, and a lot of work by some free range Gunnison, Colorado chickens, we were able to serve 170 meals of scrambled eggs, french toast, cheesy potatoes, and biscuits and gravy, with coffee, orange juice, milk, cookies, syrup, and ketchup on the side.
Our guests raved about the meal. I've been helping coordinate SMP for a few months now and I've never heard anyone say, "great breakfast." We get thank-yous. But today not only did I hear "thank you," I also heard, "That was the best breakfast I've had... ever," and "My favorite breakfast is the 'big breakfast' at McDonalds, but this blows that out of the water," and "I think I'm in a food coma," and "Gimme some more a them eggs, bro," just to quote a few. Simply by providing breakfast foods, coffee, and orange juice the spirit of the place lifted, conversations became livelier, the space filled with joy and noise from everyone talking and laughing.
It's amazing what a few (28 dozen) eggs can do.
We didn't solve any of the problems of homelessness that our guests deal with each day, but we did create a safe space for a few hours, filled bellies, lifted spirits, and—I hope—saw each guest as an individual loved by the divine, so they might feel love that they so rarely feel when objectified in the eyes of the world as the poor, dispossessed, unwashed, and unwanted. It is a start, at the very least. And it is also our end.