Monthly Archives: June 2010
Listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Speaking of Faith, while taking a long walk yesterday morning, I was struck again by how coherent the voices are if we have the ears for them. Ellen Davis, professor of “Bible and Practical Theology at Duke University, talks about the theological underpinnings of caring for the land. She recalls the repetition of the phrase “God saw that it was good” as creation unfolded and said it could be translated as “God saw how beautiful it was.” Embedded in the interview are recordings of Wendell Berry reading his poetry in that slow, careful manner poetry must be read. The poet’s voice, and the word arrangement on the page, are created things – things that taketheir time and must be taken in slowly to actually receive them. Davis remarks that Wendell Berry has said himself that “poetry cannot be read in distraction” and that whatever slows us down must be valued “and maybe is a gift and even a calling from God.”
Don’t all wise people say something like this? That we must be present to the place we are in order to remember the place we hold in the order of things?
So the final numbers for 2009-10:
- 2550 breakfasts served at the labor pools through the Breakfast Brigade;
- 2,983 folks joined us for a meal at Dorothy’s Cafe
- 29 different people stayed with us 185 nights over the past year
And we shared a cup of coffee and some snacks with hundreds of people on Tuesdays and Thursdays this past semester at the new coffee house project. We don’t keep track of how many blankets we give out, or clothes, how many extra meals folks join us for outside of the Brigade and Cafe, nor how many folks just stop by for mail, or to make a phone call, or just chat and rest a bit.
I do the “numbers” at the end of every year. I know some of you might not understand my fascination with statistics. I’ve tried to explain that honestly it comes from my baseball background and how much I love to check the box scores every morning during the season–seeing who hit home runs, how many batters a certain pitcher struck out, who is leading the league in RBIs, etc. This is all true. But there’s another reason too.
Numbers matter to me because sometimes I get lost in the day-to-day of what we do, in all the faces passing by, in all the stories of all the different people who are dealing with struggles in their lives. So many of the folks who leave the house, you just don’t know what or if you’ve done anything for them that really matters. It all feels so much like a drop in the proverbial bucket, and you wonder if it adds up to making any difference at all.
I know that numbers never tell the whole story. They can’t tell you how Kim sat and listened and shared her life with that one guest that stayed 17 nights with us. Or the stories of suffering and surviving that so many homeless women have shared with each other and our volunteers at the Thursday “Ladies Only” coffee house. Or all the laughter I used to hear upstairs from those same women as they regaled Kelli or Diedre or Leah with their stories. Numbers can’t tell you how hard it is to share a home with people who are addicted but desperately want to get off drugs and how they keep falling down and then rising back up again. The numbers don’t communicate Lawrence making bread at 3:20am on Friday mornings and all the guys at the labor pools wanting so bad to work that day, who week after week say “thank you” and smile as they take a slice of homemade bread and hardboiled eggs. There’s so much that numbers don’t even hint at.
But for me, at this time of year, just a few hours after our last Dorothy’s Cafe until we restart in August, it gives me some sense of accomplishment to see that nearly 3000 people shared lunch with us every week, or that we thanked 2500 workers with bread and eggs on Friday mornings throughout the year. Tired as I am after mopping those floors and doing all those dishes today, it lifts me up to see that this year we gave 29 different people a place to sleep when they had nowhere else to go. The numbers aren’t overwhelming; I know there are years where we’ve done more if you go strictly by the numbers. But still, seeing it all down, seeing the year’s work measured out for me–it means something.
Each day may have only been a drop in the bucket. But when the year is over, and I get to add it all up, I think maybe we’ve come close to filling that bucket.
Thanks so much for all the great help and good company we had for preparing our recent cafe meals! It really does “take a village” to transform the quantity and diversity of raw ingredients we have into a meal. Well done!
We’ll have one more go this week – serving up veggie pockets, deviled eggs, refrigerator pickles, and icy melon balls. We could use your help again putting it all together (between 9 and 12) as well as serving and cleaning up (12-3). Our ovens will be occupied, but if anyone would like to donate homemade cookies in celebration of this last cafe till August, I know folks would love it.
We’ll be busy this summer making plans for the next “year,” taking care of the garden, and hopefully making time for some house upkeep and travel to see family. Hope your summer is both productive and refreshing as well!
Hope to see you!
Kelli and John
For details on the schedule at the house this week, please click here.
We’ve got to be creative in making good use of the incoming produce, as well as the pantry staples we need to use up before summer (when they magically grow bugs). And we could use some extra help in transforming it all into something delicious for Dorothy’s Cafe on Wednesday. If you are interested in helping slice cucumbers, devil eggs, chop nuts, and/or peel oranges, please stop by Wednesday morning anytime between 9 and 12. Please let us know if you are coming if possible. We could really use the extra help this week as some of our stalwarts are not in town. In addition, there’s always set-up at 11, serving between 12 and 3, and ongoing clean-up till 4.
If you can’t help, stop by and eat with us. We will be serving refrigerator pickles, deviled eggs (diverted from the breakfast brigade), orange “ambrosia” salad, Egyptian rice salad, and fresh bread – a light, cool lunch for another hot, humid day.
Hope to see you!
Kelli and John