Monday, February 11, 2013

Food for the Heart: Volunteering at St. Francis Lutheran Church

By Laurel Kapros
Early Sunday mornings used to find me still in bed, sleeping, unaware of the waking city, of people getting up and needing a good, hot meal.  But that was before I started spending Sunday mornings volunteering for the Hospitality Hour at St. Francis Lutheran Church on Market and Church streets in San Francisco. 
Spending Sundays in a church is a new experience for me.  I was not raised with much traditional religion, but I did grow up in a shared food community, with group gardens and sharing of resources, to make sure everyone had enough to eat.  So this morning I join a crew of dedicated volunteers, community members and church leaders to feed a meal to 90 to 140 marginally housed and homeless San Franciscans.  We might all still be a little sleepy, but there is an air of camaraderie in the kitchen and dining room.  We work together to get ready for the morning meal, making up the desert plates, prepping the food, setting the tables with bouquets of flowers.  So that when the men, women and families come, we will be ready to serve up salad and hot chicken stew, hand out fruit and a few sweet treats, make sure that people leave with bags of pantry items like oranges, bread and yogurt. 
Two homeless children get a tour of the church after the meal.
The lessons I’m learning at the St. Francis morning meal are lessons of cooperation, abundance, and heart.  It is not always easy for me to see the homeless in our Bay Area cities, I don’t always know how to help.  What can help is giving these men, women and families a hot cup of coffee, a plate of food, a good morning and a smile.  Getting a thank you and a smile in return, and realizing everyone deserves to be fed.  It is particularly hard for me to see the homeless families with children.  But what is not hard is seeing another man give his cupcake to a little girl.  There is joy in playing with the children, giving their tired parents a small break.  In making a game with the kids of cleaning up a mess, and when it is time to put away the broom, of hearing them chant, “We want more chores, more chores!”  They are certainly kids after my own heart with their desire to help out, to clean, and to be a part of a community. 
And there is the lesson of abundance, that there can be enough to go around of both food and heart.  Businesses donate food to the meal programs, if there is too much for that particular meal, another program can certainly use it.  There are food and resources out there, but oftentimes help is necessary for it to get to the right places.  Thanks to volunteers and organizations like Welcome, St. Francis Lutheran Church, Food Runners and SF CARES, this bounty can reach those who need it most.  It is about sharing these meals, these resources, making sure everyone, myself included, is fed, body, mind and spirit.

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