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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Have You Ever Seen an Angel?

Really a rough draft... submitted it today to "Soul's Code." Let's see what happens. I haven't written anything at all for months, really...

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Did you ever see an angel?

Today was a rough day. Seems like every Saturday morning I show up lately there's an undercurrent at the mission. I only go every two weeks because that's all the stimulation I can stand at a time. There are so many souls,so many of them in transition, in stasis, so many of them trying to fend off whatever haunts the alleyways of their path. Today we distributed a little bit over two hundred plates. That could mean that one hundred people came up for seconds. And then again, we ran out of plates because there weren't enough in the cupboard to make the cycle of eating, dispensing, washing,steaming and back on the counter again to feed. So we started putting a hard boiled egg, a piece of bacon, a piece of a mozzarella cheese and two pieces of toast in pink plastic cereal bowls. It's very difficult to tell someone that they've already had two plates and they can't have anymore until after11:00 a.m. when we are fairly certain everyone has been fed at least once. You know they are ravenous, and not just for food.

I stood and served today even though I came in announcing that I was in a funk and didn't want to mess with people today. I didn't want to say, "Good morning, would you like a piece of cheese," I wanted to say, "Leave me the hell alone." That's what depression does for me; it pulls me back away from all of the chaos of living and sits with me, silent, watching. There are seasons where too many feelings circulate for my brain and my heart to process all of them; too many thoughts and not enough energy for them all. An empathetic soul is not without limitation or want.

The mission is a place where people in Sudbury come to be fed. The food is free, and some people argue that we're not helping people by giving them food. We should be giving them programs. Well, I've lived on the street before and there were days where all I wanted was an egg and a piece of bacon. The people who come are young, so young that they still have the arrogance of "I should have." Some are old, and they come not for the food, but for the company. I can feel their stories radiate off of them. Everyone is there for a purpose. Who am I to dictate what the purpose is? I'm there to serve.

It's very hard not to get attached to the people, even though the meager training I have says to keep my distance. Evidently, the professor who advised me against a career in social work was correct. I feel them and I can't tell you that it is always pleasant. I'm repaying a debt I incurred when I was nineteen and twenty years old, with the arrogance of "I should have."

Of course there are favourites. Of course there are people with whom you connect and you want to help them, to somehow make a difference. It's excruciating to watch them cycle in their moods or their psychosis. We have a young woman who has gone from hugging to wrenching and trying to pummel in two short months. She thought she was pregnant, and I'm certain she went off of her meds; only to cycle again into the disease of self-medicating. She lost the baby. Angry, she's walks up to the counter and steals a handful of napkins. She doesn't want food. It's like approaching a dog that's tied at the post. "Don't take so many, there are so many others." Do you come back with extra napkins in your hand or a hand at all? When do you comfort, and when do you fear?

After everyone was served, after the bowls and plates and discarded food was rounded up from the tables; washed, cleaned, dispensed of, we were alone to catalogue the goings on. Our friend, our favourite is banned from the mission for an indefinite period of time. She's smashing cups outside, she's defiant and angry. She's hurt and hurting others; threatening other customers who can't or won't speak up.

We look for angels in our midst when it is convenient. We offer to perform charity work for the self gratification or the repayment of debt. We serve to satisfy the hunger within our own souls.

Yes, I know, there are angels in our midst; but have you ever seen an angel?