Tomorrow morning our small congregation at Brunswick Street United will be making and serving the breakfast at the Brunswick Street Mission. About 75 people will be there to eat and our breakfast team will gather at 6:30 am. The timing is important, people expect to eat at 7 am and it may be the only meal they’ll have all day. So it is “all hands on deck”, getting the eggs and bacon made, the juice made, the hash browns prepared, the sugar and ketchup on the tables. There is a lots of work to be done and it must be done quickly.
The cook who supervises the meals Mon-Fri recently told me that when students from the local seminary arrived to provide this necessary service everyone chipped in and the meal was hearty, tasty and well received. Good on them! But there was one job no one seemed anxious to do. The men and women who frequent the Mission breakfast deeply appreciate the meal but they also appreciate it when people come out from the kitchen and sit with them. Well most do. Some of the gathered community have had a hard night (some are homeless, many come from the Metro Turning Point, imagine sharing a space with 75 other men) so they prefer to eat alone in quiet. But many at the breakfast love to share a story, connect with someone they know or have yet to know.
But when churches arrive to cook and serve the meal this is the activity that proves the most challenging. I asked one group of volunteers why they struggled with this task and the common answer was, “I have nothing in common with them.” Except we do. Human beings have different cultures, different lifestyles and are challenged in different ways but we all share a bond of empathy, curiosity and joy. When we take the risk to sit with the other you are often surprised by just how much we have in common.
What I find so amazing about this community is the resiliency of those who have struggled and been challenged far more than me and yet consistently find something to be passionate about, something/someone to care about. I love the laughter, the hard learned lessons about what is important and what is not important. When you have little you learn to appreciate what is truly necessary.
So the next time you offer to prepare or serve a meal at a shelter, an outreach ministry, a soup kitchen, remember that Jesus told a story about two women, Mary and Martha, who offered guests two kinds of hospitality. The meal was important. But so was the listening, the connecting and the sharing of stories. Food comes with conversation. It’s the best ingredient. Next to bacon that is.