For 11 years and over 550 Mondays, we have served a weekly meal on Vine Street in Philadelphia.
An outdoor meal.
Over the years we have seen the extremes of every season, and this has been highlighted recently with the freezer-burned January whip. It is on the coldest of these days that I am able to see the depth of the needs of the poor in Philly. You have to be really hungry to stand in an outdoor line for 30 minutes for a good, hot plate of food. You have to be really desperate to stand in an outdoor line for an hour to get help obtaining an ID card.
There has been some tension over the years regarding whether or not we should be allowed to serve outdoor meals to the homeless.
On these Mondays, when the wind seems to be carrying razors, it is clear that we do not create a problem, but we are there to meet a need.
And it is not just food distribution and identification assistance, but we are a Monday family to many. For some, we are the most consistent things in their inconsistent lives.
We meet the needs where we can, and we pray when we cannot.
There was a moment a few weeks ago that was a glimpse into the heart of what we do. A homeless man came up in bitterly bad shape from the elements, and a volunteer offered him a pair of gloves. The man quickly accepted, but was unable to straighten his finger to get his hands in. I didn't know what was happening, but I looked over and saw a grown man rubbing another man's hands to share the warmth that was required to meet the need.