Thursday, December 24, 2009

How a Holiday Soup Kitchen Should Be

It's Christmas Eve, so sometime in the next 24 hours you'll probably see some reporter running a piece where they do the usual feel-good news showing volunteers ladling out plates of food to feed those less fortunate. 

Pretty much always, the place looks sterile and cheerless except for the rows and rows of people being fed.  Now I'm not trying to detract from the good folks who are doing what they can to see that others don't go with empty bellies. 

Then again, I've had friends who've been homeless or at least poor enough that they needed a soup kitchen before.  They generally tell stories about being forced to sit through some sort of religious service and get themselves "saved" before they can eat.

So on this Christmas Eve night, I wanted to remember, and tell you about, a "soup kitchen" that to me, modeled the way this should be done.  It was about 20 years ago, Thanksgiving, and I was living near Woodstock, NY.  Don't know how I got word of it exactly, but it traveled through the hippy-vine and reached me.

We showed up at a church which had donated space for the night.  I brought a couple roasted turkeys, some pies, some veggies and stuff, and my flute.  The "volunteers" set up the tables and plated out food for the needy folks.  Everyone had brought a crazy amount of food, so after we made sure that everyone in need had all they could eat, the rest of us got plates too, and sat down with our homeless neighbors, sharing love and stories.  Once we'd all eaten our fill, we whipped out the musical instruments:  my flute, a bucket-load of guitars, a couple violins and a damn fine harmonica or two.  We ate, played music and danced and had a great time.  The party lasted well into the night and by the end of it, you couldn't separate the "give-ers" from "give-ees" and know which was which.  And those of us "haves" felt as gifted by the night as the "have-nots".  Probably more so.

The only sad thing, is people seem to get out for stuff like this only one or two nights a year.  But those have-not folks need to eat the other 363 days or so too, right?

I can't do it all, and you can't either.  But once I'm set up in my new home, I'm going to try to replicate this sort of Alice's Restaraunt Massacre "soup kitchen".  (Without the pile of garbage or the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, lets hope.)

And do it more than once or twice a year.

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