No Shoes, No Shirt #2

Who deserves our assistance? Shouldn’t we avoid giving food to those who don’t appear to deserve it?

I offer two reflections. For Christians, I would note that Jesus fed people, and when he did he fed everyone (Matt 14: 13-21). He did no selecting out, and he instructed his disciples to send no one away hungry.

Secondly, I share the story of a family I met years ago who had a clear window on this question.

At dinner time, I arrived at an urban church where a hot meal is provided outdoors every week. The weather was cold with a threat of rain, and the sun was going down. People were arriving by foot from all directions. The setting and the clientele made me a bit apprehensive. As I walked up to the old school bus around which the activity swirled, I was welcomed by John who, along with his father Roger and his step-mother Jill, make this meal go. John says he is the “bouncer,” but there is no need for interventions most evenings. “Feed them all, let God sort them out” is Roger’s motto for his outdoor dinner program.

The line quickly grows as they place and cover folding tables. Bottled water, utensils, desserts are laid out. The hot food, prepared in the church kitchen, follows and all is quickly served into take-home containers for the clients. Dinner box 1

Afterwards there is time to talk to Roger. He is a large man. A very large man, probably outweighing most NFL linemen. His white hair gives a clue as to his age.

The family’s involvement began when Jill had a dream that she was supposed to feed people. Roger resisted initially but was won over, and the evidence of time verifies the veracity of her calling. They have served dinner in this location weekly in all weather for multiple years.

They serve the homeless and near homeless.  The legions of working families who rely on food assistance are not among the dinner visitors here.

Even among this group, Roger’s analysis across all the thousands they have served, is that 80% of the people are very grateful for the meal they receive. Another 10% are mentally ill. Some of them have to be handled gingerly so they are not scared off before receiving their meal. Only the remaining 10% of those they serve are ‘greedy’ as Roger puts it, potentially working the system. Thus, the motto, “Feed them all, let God sort them out” which he connects to his Christian faith, is also very practical.

Bottom line: we too should not let a concern about freeloaders keep us from serving the overwhelming majority who deserve our support. Please contact your Representative and Senators and let them know that you oppose cuts to SNAP.

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