Friday, November 16, 2012

The Storm: moveable feasts

I'm not entirely sure why I'm blogging about the aftermath of the storm now. That was months ago, but maybe I need to get it out of my system to move forward.

I was without power for nine days. At the time, I remember that I bitched about it almost non-stop. I remember feeling helpless and angry and frustrated. I remember being pissed off a the neighbors for keeping me half awake night after night and how the dog wouldn't let me sleep past daylight. I remember being hungry and sick of eating food out of a can and stale bread.

I also remember being invited to sleep in the spare rooms of friends or to share their garages, but I declined them. I was a little too proud. I hate feeling weak. I hate asking for help --or accepting it as only help.

During the power outage, I went to Lewisburg. Those were the shit sandwich posts. I still have a hard time believing that actually happened --not the part about the helpful racist or the asshole rent-a-cop --but the rest of it. I was pissed.

But that happened after the meal at the church gym in Sissonville and I'm still thinking about that.

I am no stranger to soup kitchens. A few summers ago, I ate at Manna Meal off and on for a couple of weeks. I thought it might be fun to write about. I was also dead tired of eating pinto beans twice a day every day and sick to death of where the money from the plasma center was invariably going --mostly into the tank of my car or for groceries.

I was so bitter and I was lying to everybody. 

I remember at Manna Meal, most of the people serving food were nice, but not all of them. Some of them looked at us all with real contempt. The cringed if our trays got too close to their hands. Admittedly, a few in the crowd of strays making their way through the line for slightly dated and kind of bland food were in need of a bath or something a bit stronger. There were ex-cons among the diners and no doubt, some of them had done things that no amount of time in a jail would actually atone for, but that wasn't the majority of us.

Most of the people I saw at Manna Meal were old or just poor. I sat next to people who brought their kids, others who walked using crutches and even one or two who watched the corners of the room like they thought something was looking back.

The community at Manna Meal was very different than the community at the church. The folks in Sissonville were neighbors and friends. Everyone belonged. We were all one.

At Manna Meal, there was "us" and the "other." On the one side were the Good Samaritans. On the other side were the strays. One side was superior to the other.

It wasn't that way at the church. The people behind the counter there didn't have power in their homes either. They weren't any better off than the people they served and had no reason to think otherwise. The serving of food wasn't a chore. They did it with joy and enthusiasm. They sweated and slaved and seemed to be glad to do it.

Those served also seemed grateful.

At Manna Meal, some of the folks took their meals with something approaching humility, but not everybody. After a while, I guess, you get tired of saying thank-you for something you're eating because you can't do better on your own. You might take the charity for granted and after a while, the people who serve, despite their better intentions, maybe sometimes feel a little slighted and unappreciated.

Maybe charity in small doses makes everyone feel better: the giver, the receiver and the observer. Perhaps charity as a way of life leads to bitterness and resentment, again for the giver, the receiver and the observer.

It's only an observation. There is no solution. People still need to get fed, even if we get tired of doling it out and they get tired of eating it.  

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