Innumerable troubles are at work in a soup kitchen. Many of our guests have not had a roof over their heads in years. For others, the only roof they know is that of the local shelters, where they must obey a curfew, do chores after a long day at work, and sleep on a thin mattress alongside thirty other people. And for those that do have an apartment, every day is a struggle to balance a fixed income with rising housing costs.
Even for the people who have spent their whole lives in this situation, and for those that prefer life on the streets to life under a roof, there are constant pitfalls: medical bills and bail bonds, the possibility of being used by people more desperate than they, the disregard and pity of anyone who comes their way.
What we give each other at Lunchtime Ministry is unique. We forgive each other, and we respect each other. For those lonely in their tiny studios, we provide a community; for those accustomed to being kicked off a bench at 3:00 AM, we provide calmness and privacy. There are no requirements for anyone to walk through our doors; we ask only that everyone respects everyone. No one who breaks even our major rules is shut out for good.
Taking no pleasure in offerings, withholding no compassion, we accept each other for who we are. Not everyone wants to achieve material success or join a particular stratum of society. Not everyone has the tools to be polite or clean or patient. But everyone has something to offer, and no one is beyond forgiveness.
Program Manager, St. Matthew Trinity Lunchtime Ministry (Hoboken, NJ)