I cannot tell you the joy it is to see some of our regular guests and volunteers at the Dilworth Soup Kitchen on Mondays. Some of our guests are first-time guests. They are overwhelmed when they realize they’re going to be served a meal, a good meal, as if they were sitting in a restaurant–for free. They sit down, and we do the leg work, serving them, bringing the bowl of soup and the plate with all that food (today it was filet mignon served over noodles in a stroganoff with roasted vegetables, salad, and fruit salad). We take their dishes away to clear the table and let them sit and visit a while. They say, “Thank you,” over and over and over again.
One guest-turned-volunteer has lived through some harrowing experiences. I remember many ups and downs with him and worried about and prayed for him through the years. Whenever I see him, I am grateful he has made it. He was there today.
There’s the man whose family has asked me about him, sending me an email of his picture and asking if he was eating with us and if he was okay. He’s there every week. He was there today.
There’s the couple who comes in and sits together. He takes care of her and has for years. She isn’t easily understood, but he makes sure she gets what she needs. They were there today.
There’s the man who once showed me a photograph of his 16-year-old daughter. We talked about parenthood for a while and I often ask him how his daughter is doing. When he talks about her, his face lights up. He was there today.
There’s the woman who can sing better than most people and knows all the words to every inspirational song you can name. After lunch, she stays and rolls silverware. She was there today.
Our volunteers have many reasons to come back week after week. We serve a quality lunch to people who are rarely offered quality–sometimes as many as two hundred meals are served on a Monday. We get to know one another and learn to work under pressure. We share in happy surprise over what the kitchen staff came up with this week for our guests to enjoy. In addition to all this, we like to feel useful.
Today, one of the guests told me about his dad. His dad was gone, but his dad had been a really nice man. As he told me about his dad, he said, “And I look just like him,” with tears in the corners of his eyes. At that moment, I remembered once again why this work is so important.
There’s the guest, the server, the pastor, the cook, the dishwasher, the silverware sorter, the custodian . . . and more. They were there today. And, from time to time, each one is a person who really needs a friend.
Sometimes, lunch is more than just lunch. That’s why we keep coming back.
The Dilworth Soup Kitchen was started on December 24th, 2008 in the Fellowship Hall and former Sanctuary of First Christian Church in Charlotte. It continues to gather at First Christian (1200 East Blvd.) every Monday from 11:30 am-12:30 pm and is always looking for new volunteers.