8.9.09 Soup Kitchen – I’m “In”

It was another Saturday afternoon from 4-5pm that my friend Barb and I showed up at the Soup Kitchen to continue to build our friendships with those in need.   No sooner did I step out of my car when Chad who has been filling me in on his life story couldn’t wait to give me an update.  We probably stood outside listening to his update for the first 10-15 minutes of our visit.  I can’t begin to tell you how touched I am by that.  He’s like all of us.  We all want a safe person we can talk to and know that the person we are talking to actually cares about our life and well being.

Once Chad had filled us in on the latest changes, we proceeded indoors to find our place at the table to continue our friendships with Bessie, Sonya, Judy, Jaz, and Tony.  Bessie with a few chuckles lovingly confronted us and asked, “Where have you been?” (I was gone playing in a golf tournament last weekend, but she was gone the two Saturdays prior.)  I bantered back and said, “What do you mean?  Where have you been?  I have only been gone once!”  She just smiled and couldn’t wait to share that her cataract surgery went well and could see so much better.  It was such a relief to have that behind her.

Celebrating Bessie's Birthday at IHOP

The last 15 minutes of my time with these dear people was taking alot of teasing from Bessie and her attempt to figure out my age because of my white hair.  She suggested I was 55 (I must say that was discouraging!) When I told her I was only 48, she took a much longer, harder look with her better eyes and decided I didn’t look as old as 55.  For those who know me well, you know I just had to give her a little bit of grief for it!  Once we got our ages established, she just looked at me and Barb and said, “You are really nice. Are you going to be here next Saturday?”  I sat there stunned and realized that after intermingling with these folks week after week that I was accepted as part of their community.  I’m “in”!  Life is good.  They haven’t asked me for a thing.  They just appreciate anyone who cares and who is “nice”.  I think that is what the Lord requires of us as we build relationships with others.  Genuinely care about others and be nice (treat others as you would want to be treated).  Pretty basic, huh?


Lee Ann

6.28.09 Life Nuggets from the Soup Kitchen

In-vis-i-ble (adj): 1. Not visible; that cannot be seen  2. Out of sight; not apparent  3. Too small or too faint to be seen; imperceptible; indistinct  4. Not publicized; kept hidden

Let me tell you where I am headed with the word “invisible”.  How many of us have come to a stop at a signal light where a poor person is holding a sign that says, “homeless-will work for food” and not even give eye contact to him or her?  How many of us when we are among crowds of people tend to avoid people who don’t look like us and don’t seem to fit our perceived socioeconomic class?  How many of us do that even inside the four walls of our own churches? 

People feel invisible when we act like they really don’t exist.  They feel invisible when we don’t even make eye contact with them.  They feel invisible when there is an impending encounter and we work hard to make sure an encounter doesn’t happen.  They feel invisible when we are socializing in a group situation and we don’t bother to engage them.  When the unspoken message to the underprivileged is that they are “invisible”, it is no wonder they have learned over the years to not even attempt eye contact with us.   

It has been about a month and a half that I have had the weekly opportunity to connect with the poor at the Soup Kitchen.  The joy of taking the time to sit with the poor is that they know they are not invisible at the Soup Kitchen.  These are precious creations of God who are loved just as much as any person God has created.  They know that they can be open, share their stories, get good eye contact, and build their friendships with others with similar struggles.  I am pleasantly surprised that they are letting me be a part of their community and are sharing their stories with me. 

As I continue to reflect on my experiences at the Soup Kitchen, I am finding myself challenged with whether I am treating anyone in my circle of influence as “invisible”.  Who am I avoiding because conversation with them is hard or they make me uncomfortable?  Who do I not make eye contact with?  It is my prayer that I am not ignoring the very people God has purposely placed in my circle of influence.  He has placed them in my circle for a reason, and it is up to me to make sure I am building bridges to them for the cause of Christ.


Lee Ann

5.24.09 Encounters in the Soup Kitchen

This writing is a follow up to my note written on May 3rd entitled “Helping the Poor”.  I indicated that I was going to attempt to interface with the poor and try to build relationships with those who are in need at our local Soup Kitchen to see how God can use me to be of some help to the poor.   My friend and I did this yesterday and what I discovered was emotionally overwhelming.

First, I discovered that they desired to be connected with others.  I really thought that I would “look different” and that they would not emotionally try to connect with me, but what I discovered is that they welcomed someone showing a genuine interest in them.  In an hour and half, I learned basic storylines for Kathleen, Katherine, Sonya, Bessie and Tony.  They needed a listening ear and needed to know that someone cared to know.  They weren’t looking to me to “fix” their circumstances.  I was so blessed by just their willingness to be open.

Second, I discovered that among the five people I met with yesterday that they seemed to have a low level of cognitive functioning and perhaps some mental illness.  When I listened to their stories, I just felt heartbroken about their circumstances and realized that their level of cognitive functioning had contributed to why they are in the circumstances that they are in.  It was so sad to me.

Third, I discovered that they not only wanted to connect with me, but it was becoming apparent that their need to keep talking to me indicated that they had been shunned and ignored in the past.  I found it very difficult to unhook from several of these conversations without feeling like I was being rude.  They are so hungry for attention.

Fourth, I discovered that the needs are great, not small.  This is probably what overwhelmed me the most.  As I listened to each of their stories, it was very hard to imagine the kind of life they were living because they did not have the resources that you and I have and take for granted.  Tony needs transportation and needs his bike repaired.  This repair is not free, and he doesn’t have the resources to pay for the repair.  My friend and I couldn’t quite figure out if the bike was in the shop and stuck there until he could pay the repair bill, or if it was at home because he couldn’t afford to have it repaired.  We are going to figure this out and see if we can help.  In the meantime, this man needs a job, and he has to walk all over town just to fill out applications.

Now, lest you think that I have been totally taken in by what I observed, I also need to share that I observed some incongruence and found myself a bit confused.  Here are people in a Soup Kitchen who need food, yet they have cell phones and a land line and can’t pay all of their bills.  Some had transportation, some did not.  Where does the money come from?  Some of you who are in the medical field probably see this everyday, and perhaps if you are a teacher, you may see this everyday as well.  I am seeing this with fresh eyes and wondering how those of you in the medical and teaching professions really deal with those who are poor and have basic needs that you and I take for granted. 

Overall, I left Saturday afternoon very encouraged by the overall experience.  My friend and I will go back next Saturday to see if we can connect with the same people and build the relationship with them.  It is my desire to help the poor in direct ways and to feed them spiritually, which is what the Soup Kitchen is all about.  I also don’t want to be calloused toward the poor and develop wrong attitudes toward the poor.  Please be in prayer for us as we will attempt to explore their attitudes toward God and get a sense of their understanding as to who Jesus is and start closing the gaps for them.  I can’t wait to see how the Spirit will work!


Lee Ann