When Diana informed me that I had volunteered to feed seventy-five homeless men at the Crisis Ministries, I had visions of the street people of Philadelphia. Diana and I have an apartment in Philadelphia’s Center City. In that beautiful city there are an estimated four thousand homeless that live each day on the streets. One thousand of them live in and around Center City and survive day-to-day as beggars. These beggars are always dirty, often visibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol and usually unappreciative for any help that could not be converted to booze, drugs, or cigarettes. Many are suffering from mental illness.
When I was younger, I never walked past a beggar without putting a quarter or two into their tin cup. Now, I always walk past beggars. I shake my head, say that I am sorry, and keep moving. There are many more panhandlers on our nation’s city streets now than there was when I was younger. It seems that most of them intend to use any money given to them to continue the behavior that made them beggars to begin with. And yet, it breaks my heart to see God’s children panhandling, sleeping on street grates, often in the rain or snow, searching for a meal, drink, or a fix. I often look at them and say to myself that were it not for the Grace of God, I could be one of them.
So, I went to the Crisis Ministries that night with the attitude that I was going to help feed the type beggars that I typically pass on the streets of Philadelphia. I was pleasantly surprised. These men were not beggars at all. They were homeless. Almost without exception, the men at the Crisis Ministries were clean, respectful, and very appreciative of the meal that we provided. A large majority of them went out of their way to personally thank us. They even applauded us when we finished serving the meal. I went to the Crisis Ministries that night with an attitude of “Oh brother, what has Diana got me into?” and left with an uplifted spirit. I think that all on our team left with that same feeling.
We had a good team that night: Lenna and Brooks Quinn and Eugenia Burtschey from St. Michaels; Diana’s stepmom and dad, Terry and Ronnie Strawn; and a friend of ours, Jennifer Roberts. We served 200 pieces of fried chicken and a like number of biscuits, mac and cheese, green beans (not that popular), and two slices of cake for each person. Second helpings were served and all the food was consumed, except, of course, the green beans.
The next time I serve, I will be the first in the door at the Crisis Ministries and will not have to be dragged in by Diana, kicking and screaming, as I was this past time.
~ George Thornley