Sorry for missing yesterday's update!
Your humble correspondent had to finish writing a paper for Seminary that was due at midnight.
That won't stop me from saying what an amazing day we had on Wednesday. A little tired and sore from two projects the day before, we made our way over to the west side near Chelsea to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen (HASK). HASK has been providing a daily lunch for whoever needs it since E.T. was in theaters. That's 1982, folks. If my math is correct (and it hardly ever is) that's more than 8,800 days (with weekends off) that they have served great food to their community. And they are certainly a well-oiled volunteer machine. We joined a room full of regular local volunteers, and were partnered up with them so we could get up to speed quickly, which we did. As soon as the doors opened we were off to the races. For the next several hours we worked non-stop making plates of food on an assembly line, filling and handing out cups of tea, running plates to and from the kitchen, and taking tickets at the door. When all was said and done, we had served 981 meals - more than both projects the day before COMBINED.
It was great work. A few thoughts that struck me:
- The Church of the Holy Apostles runs the HASK in their sanctuary. A few years ago they had the floors replaced with a beautiful tile, and removed all the pews in favor of stackable chairs so that every day they could fill this room with tables and with their hungry neighbors. During the week they serve a free lunch. On Sundays they serve the eucharist. They feed body and soul in the same room. It's all about tables, friends. All that to say - this ministry is not relegated to some side room or old fellowship hall that isn't as nice. No - they are offering their very best (see the picture above) to those in the worst positions.
- Not everybody that ate lunch at HASK was homeless or even impoverished. Some people live or work close by, and just came to eat because the food is pretty good and costs nothing. AND THAT'S OKAY - because we all need to be together. Heck, if I knew of a place close to Christ the Servant that served a decent free meal every day - you could ALWAYS find me there. (Except on Tuesdays... because Antonio's.)
- Live music. Since the lunch is served in the sanctuary, there's a piano that is played by a volunteer throughout the course of the meal service. It completely changes the atmosphere in the place. One day they had a string quartet and the crowd was so moved that they kept standing up to applaud during their meal. Like the NYC Rescue Mission who has the amazing chef cooking their meals, HASK has given their best to those who have the least - because we all should.
After this we had our first opportunity to see some of the city, so our group split up to see a couple of sights. Some of us stuck around and ate the same lunch we had been serving. Some of us ventured out to Times Square, and some of us had tickets for a show, but after 2 days of hard work, we had earned it.
What you're looking at in this photo are the faces of people who know they have just finished their last project for the week. Today we went back to the NYC Rescue Mission (see previous post) to do a different kind of work. Some of us worked on meal prep for lunch and dinner in the shelter, and the rest of us worked making the beds ready and scrubbing the showers! I personally chopped so many squash (squashes?) that I think I may have developed a condition called "Chef's Shoulder" from the constant repetitive motion. It's a cross I'm happy to bear. This day was different than most days, and it taught us a valuable lesson. Today was the only day we wouldn't be working directly with the people we were serving. We wouldn't look into the eyes of the people who ate the food we were preparing. We would never know the names of the people who slept in the beds we made. We would never see the...faces... of the people using the shower we scrubbed clean. You don't always know who will benefit from the good you do - but you do it anyway. Today we were rewarded with a great lunch by our new friend Chef Pedro Rodriguez. That dude can cook. Afterward, just for the heck of it, we shucked an entire bag of corn.Because, why not? After cleaning up, we showed ourselves out, but not before posing for this photo. We walked toward downtown near the 9/11 memorial before splitting up to do some more exploring in the city.
To cap off the day, here's a great story.
The Blockhus' (DJ, Tina and Colleen) were the first ones back to the apartment tonight. Around 8pm they got a knock on the door from about a dozen French travelers. They had rented the apartment below us and next door - but the key to the place wasn't in the lockbox when they opened it. When they called the company the apartment owner was using to manage the rental, they said they couldn't help them. It looked like these 11 pilgrims would find themselves without anywhere to sleep on their first night in the city. DJ tried a couple of ways to help them try and figure things out, and at one point he considered inviting them into the apartment where at least there was cold AC and water to drink. After a little while, he looked outside to check on them, but they were gone. Perhaps they made it inside their apartment, perhaps they went to the Hilton. Who knows. DJ said he may have even considered letting them crash on our floor, but he said he didn't want to decide that for our whole group, since 7 of us weren't home yet. But after all the talk we have been doing about our theme of radical hospitality, I'd like to think that we'd have all been ok with it. I'm kinda wishing he had invited them in. That would have make a great story!
We have no projects tomorrow. Some of us are visiting Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty. Some of us are catching a movie and a museum. Abby and I are going to the museum, to the park, and having lunch with my old best friend from elementary school, who I haven't seen since. We'll all be spending one of our days making memories together as families. We have plans to meet for one last dinner together in the city (provided none of us wins the Hamilton lottery), where we will toast to our friends back home at Christ the Servant, and look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
Grace + Peace,
Abby, Colleen, Elizabeth, DJ, Jonathan, JT, Marsha, Randy, Susan and Tina.