We drove downtown and found a place to park. As we walked up to the old building, we stepped up into the dimly lit alcove that was the front entrance. We told the man behind the thick plexiglas barrier that we were signed up to help tonight. After a brief pause, he buzzed us into the back room. The walls were covered with inexpensive wood paneling, but the 7 or 8 tables were laid out in the small space with enough room to move around comfortably. Each table had a small array of the usual condiments. We walked into the kitchen and found a man busy with preparations for that evening's meal that would be served in about 30 minutes. He welcomed the company and the spirit that we brought, but he was more than prepared to handle the work load all by himself, and quite ably. I would suspect that, at least most of the time, he only sees a face once. I have the feeling that this is the kind of place where folks come, make an appearance, feel good about themselves and go back to their own territories, their own lives. Rescue Mission.
As the time for the meal arrives, we busy ourselves with putting out the cups with ice, bringing out the pitchers of tea, and preparing. We are told that when the group of about 35 folks enter, they will be seated, and we will then bring them out their plates of food. At the appointed time, we begin to prepare the plates. One hot dog, one hamburger, some french fries, and a serving of cole sole. Not a bad meal, but this meal is not about the appearance, not about the fancy surroundings, and not even about the taste. This is a rescue mission.
Before the group starts to eat, someone says a blessing for the meal and we all hang low in the kitchen. After they finish, each one of them brings their disposable plates and cutlery to the trash cans and leans into the kitchen and says thank you. They appreciate our efforts and our time. They then go back to their rooms for a time while we tidy the place, wiping tables and chairs, doing the dishes, and putting some of the kitchen equipment away. These men are required to stay at the rescue mission under close supervision. They are trying to reset their lives. To gain back their self-esteem and self-worth. To push out the drug addictions and to gain control of their minds. Each has their own demons to battle. Each has to come to grips with where they are and where they hope to go. Tonight was not about us. We were there to serve. It was a rescue mission.
(Part 3 of 3)
Thanks to David, Angela, Lana, Aimee, Kevin, and Carmen for reaching out and reaching up, but never looking down.