When I arrive at Metropolitan United in Toronto and see the large Second Harvest truck pull up in the parking lot with the day’s food for the Out of the Cold program, it’s a sign that help has arrived and God has once again provided. This warms my heart.
Entering the church basement, I find a line of hungry people who have made it through another dark night of the soul. Their faces conceal any shame or misgivings as they boldly take their places yet again. Some look hopeful as volunteers arrive bringing food, aid and relief.
Seeing them, I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 13:34: “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
I ask myself, who was “not willing” in each of these persons’ lives? Who was unwilling to help, to be patient, to be kind, to protect, to forgive or just to love? I can’t help but think, “There but for the grace of God go I,” and then I get to work serving up food.
As the men and women approach, we greet one another with a sense of community, familiarity and gratitude.
One day, one of the regular clients mentions to me that he is from Trinidad. I ask him if he can cook “doubles,” a fried flatbread sandwich filled with curried chickpeas and other toppings — and a favourite dish of mine. He says sure and promises to share the recipe.
When I next see him, he hands me the recipe, which he’s written out by hand. Then he points to the bottom of the page. “This is my name and my website. I would like you to look at it.”
Later, I look him up online. To my amazement, I learn that this man is not only an accomplished photographer but also an author with a background in political science. His book Hanged Twice is available for order. When I next see him and mention what I’ve read about him, I can see the pride on his face as he smiles.
I am humbled by this experience and reminded that you just never know who you are serving. This exchange also teaches me that homelessness can happen to any of us. It is rarely a choice or a path we take, but a sudden cruel detour on life’s road.
Lunch wraps up, seconds are served and takeout containers get filled to the rim. We say our goodbyes until we meet again.
The week progresses, and I run into some of the clients walking in the neighbourhood. We greet one another with a warm smile and a gentle wave, for we have gathered in a place that has changed us both.
At the Out of the Cold lunches, God’s children are on both sides of the kitchen wall. Lives are transformed whether you’re in the lineup or ladling food. That’s what makes this sacred space, holy ground.
Denise Moore is a yoga instructor and a member of Metropolitan United. She lives in Toronto.
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