This past Sunday I was moved by one of our church's soup kitchen volunteers. She's a bundle of energy and teaches Broadway and film stars how to tap-dance when their roles require it. A group of us were having a light lunch after church at a nearby restaurant when she bounced up to our table and apologized for being late. She had the last-minute idea to let those poor souls in line dress up their chili themselves. Her words spoke volumes, "Yeah, I decided that when you're cooking an industrial-style meal like that, if you let those in line add their own dollop of sour cream and shredded cheese, it adds a feeling of "home" to the meal. Takes a bit longer this way, but it places a warm and personal touch to the meal."
Last week's New York Times and NY Daily News both reported on our current dwindling supply of food for the needy, juxtaposed with an increase in those needing assistance. These poor often hold full-time jobs, while remaining homeless. That's right, they work hard just like you, but don't even get paid enough to afford a studio apartment in a bad neighborhood.
There is something you can do. You can phone our local NY representatives and tell them you support the 2007 Farm bill. But act now, because the bill expires October 31, 2007.
One other thing you can do is print out these tri-fold "Street Sheets" and keep them with you. So often we don't know how to really help the needy when they ask us. Giving them a buck or two seems fleeting. If you can take the time to stop and have a brief conversation with them, get to know their name and address them that way, they may tell you more specifically what some of their needs are. These sheets are broken up into food services, shelter, legal and other. I am working with a new initiative called Partners In Grace, to distribute these sheets more widely across the city. We'll be producing a seminar in January on "Ten Things You Can Do To Help Those In Need When They Approach You."