It had been years since I’d gone to a soup kitchen. It will not be years before I go again. I plan on going Monday.
I’d be lying if I said going to the soup kitchen for lunch was emotionally easy. It wasn’t. I suppose when one goes for the first time, or, in my case, returns after having gone years without needing the support of a soup kitchen, it’s never easy. The last time I went to a soup kitchen was in the early 1970s in New York City when I was homeless. I am not homeless now. In fact, I like my apartment. It is in an old house and the walls are thick and the rooms are comfortably sized and, not surprisingly, given who I am, there are books everywhere.
There just not always enough food and so I go to a wonderful food pantry every two weeks and, yesterday, the soup kitchen. They will be serving a Thanksgiving meal at 4:30 Thanksgiving and I plan on being there.
I’d half-suspected yesterday would have been a shattering experience for me. It wasn’t. There had to be something in the neighborhood of a hundred people there. All ages. One woman in her fifties was there with her family. She had finished her meal and was fully absorbed with reading a book while her family ate and chattered among themselves on either side of her.
The protocol is you sit at a table and these college kids serve you lunch and then desert. They call the men sir and the women mam. They were all very nice and very attentive. The food was not bad and the desert was a piece of rather tasty carrot cake. I was at a table with two men. One was a younger fellow who, while pleasant enough, was not very talkative. I asked him how the food was. He smiled and waggled his hand in the air, the universal sign for so-so. I never did learn his name.
My other tablemate was Bob. Bob is in his fifties. His cheeks are flushed and seem swollen. There is a concave area under his left chin. He’d had cancer some years back. He tells me he’s been cancer free for five years. We talked about our circumstances, our days of homelessness, the recent election, and, no matter what anyone says, we both still have loads of admiration for Lance Armstrong. Say what you will about the man, he battled back from cancer and raised millions so others might do the same. That, and like one person said, an EPO doesn’t turn a donkey into a racehorse.
Bob gave me some tips on a soup kitchen for the weekend. The one yesterday runs Monday through Friday. I left before Bob. We shook hands and said we were glad to meet each other and it was true. I left with a small container of lentil soup they’d given me to take home.
When I got home I sat on the living room rug with my back against the couch. Soon both my dogs were nestled against me. I took out the book I’ve been reading, “Herzog,” by Saul Bellow and read.
Even when life is difficult, it’s good.