Nov. 18, 2012
The image I carry away from last night’s street meal involves Ki-ke’, no surprise. Over the years, despite our language barrier (which, especially with Dona Trini and him, often feels to me like a physical barrier), we have become close. He’s easy to become close to–warm, funny, caring, always eager to serve. This meal, driving into downtown San Salvador and pulling up to dark places where the homeless are encamped and distributing carefully prepared meals from the back of a truck, is his idea, along with a few friends. It is a stark, sobering, and rich experience, with surprising moments of connection. Last week we served over 100 meals, and Luann will always remember the one man, cross-dressed, and the electric jolt of eye contact that she had with him. It is a relationship stripped of all artifice, down to the most basic level. You are hungry and we have food to share. As someone said last night on our drive home, it’s difficult to be open and ready for that moment on the first time into the streets, as there is so much going on that is new and a little scary. But after that, those moments of grace are available to us as we slow the experience down and settle deeply into it.
Last night we returned to a new location on the route, an area under an overpass and along a divided four-lane street with fast traffic. As we organized the truck and began to serve, I crossed the street and climbed up on the two-foot median to look across to the other side. From dark corners, ones and twos appeared and came over to be served, but there were two separate bundles that turned out to be men wrapped in blankets. Neither was moving, neither seemed aware of our presence or much of anything else. I signaled two fingers to Ki-ke’, and he and Larry brought plates and coffee to the median, dodging the racing traffic. I held one serving while Ki-ke’ climbed down the median and went to one of the bundles. He squatted, gently tapped the man in the blanket, and held a private conversation with him, clearly encouraging him to eat. He returned to the median for the second meal and went back to the other man, spending more time gently, peacefully talking to him, reaching through the haze to connect with him, feeding him a bite of tortilla dipped in sauce to prime his appetite.
This is not a ministry with a grand scope. It won’t change the world. It brings a little bit of food to one person at a time, a little bit of hope, a little reminder that the connections are available all the time if we will just slow down and reach out.