Serving More than Food

Sometimes people in need – need more than food.

But why is it so difficult to hang out and talk to the homeless? Or others who need help in order to survive?

The Salvation Army, located not far from our church, recently implemented a new program. Meals are being served there Monday through Friday evenings for anyone who shows up and wants to eat. Within just a few weeks, the numbers of people fed has doubled.

Our church, along with other area churches, has committed to helping the program be successful. My husband and I have volunteered to be on the team.

We had our first experience last weekend. Both of us had served meals in the heart of Seattle, but it had been a long time, so we looked forward to helping at a location closer to home.

People of all ages filed in. Mothers alone with children. The elderly. Some of the guests looked like they lived on the streets. Others were clean and well spoken, but were probably just going through a rough time financially. A mother came in with four children who were all very well behaved and polite. Everyone graciously accepted the food we poured into bowls or laid on their plates. Many stayed as long as we were open; visiting with people they had either arrived with, or seemed to know from their world outside.

Volunteers are asked to sit and visit with the guests, when able. During the course of the evening, several people from our team joind a table and attempted to generate conversation. My husband and both hung back that night, wanting to get a better feel for the people there.

Why did we hesitate? What makes it so difficult to sit down with a stranger and talk to them? I’m an introvert, but one of my gifts is talking one-on-one and “listening.” People need to be listened to.

Perhaps it was the feeling I got while serving them. I smiled, looked into their eyes – but they refused to connect with me for more than a brief moment. I sensed embarrassment over receiving free food. It’s one thing when you can’t afford to purchase a new car. It’s another thing entirely when you can’t provide the nourishment required to survive.

FEAR plays a huge role in building walls between people who need help and those who offer it. We may fear that they’re different, or that they don’t want to talk to us; while they may fear that we don’t trust them, or look down on them as being “less.” We both probably fear rejection.

But Sonny and I hope—we plan—to make the effort next time to sit with them. Ask them about their lives. We want to give them time with someone who cares. We want to make them feel like they count. We want to serve them something more than food for their bellies.

I know that if I ask to sit at a table with guests at one of those meals, I may be unsuccessful in sharing any kind of conversation with them. They don’t have to talk to me. And if they don’t, it could become a very uncomfortable situation. But that’s the risk I need to take. Because there’s also a chance that we’ll both walk away better for it.



  1. Be brave. I look forward to hearing your report! :)


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