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About Pastor Dan

Friday, June 04, 2004

Why I am a liberal: Our church participates in a meal program at the local soup kitchen. Every six weeks, on a Tuesday morning, we provide lunch with food donated by local citizens. Sometimes, the food is given away by the local supermarkets. Because of that, there is never a shortage of dessert. Any cakes, cookies or pies they haven't been able to sell--and that's usually a lot--wind up at the food pantry.

My job is to greet the people as they come through the line. I wouldn't have expected it, but you do get to know people, and they remember you too.

I talked to a guy today who seemed a bit out of it, so I asked him if he was okay. He was fine, it turned out. He was just taking an anti-psychotic medication that made him tired. As I watched him move on down the line, I noticed his telltale shuffle.

So it goes: behind him was a guy with developmental issues, and behind him was an older gentleman who lives in subsidized housing nearby. Granted, this is a fairly small town (10-15,000) but it does get to be sad, watching how poorly our social safety net is constructed. We have a few people who come to us because of drug or alcohol problems, I'm sure, a few who are truly shiftless.

But by and large, these are not homeless folks. Most of them live on some form of disability or other assistance; a smaller number are seasonally out of work (common in such a rural area). They have to stretch their resources by coming down to the lunch. Otherwise, they just might not eat.

Today I met the sweetest two- or three-year old you'd ever want to see, riding on her daddy's shoulders while Mom was getting the family trays of potatoes and sauerkraut. I asked her if she wanted some cake, and she said "Yeah" in that definite way only little children can manage. And I just thought: God bless this family. I hope they can stay together, and I hope this little girl doesn't have to struggle like her parents seem to be struggling.

It's not that I'm a bleeding heart.

Wait. Actually, I am a bleeding heart.

It's not that I think government is the answer, necessarily. It's just that I look at how lucky I am, how much money and surplus food is floating around out there, and how dire some of these people's situations are. And I have to ask myself, why can't we take better care of them?

We served 168 people today, a source of perverse pride, if you stop to think about it. We did right by these folks, but the fact remains that this is only one lunch on one day. The community serves lunch every day of the year, and is thinking about expanding to two meals a day. The same is true for the town I live in: you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner in a church basement every single day. On the one hand, it's fantastic that our little city has the resources to provide so generously. On the other hand, it's kinda depressing to realize that there's a need for these kinds of services.

And that, my friends, is why I am a liberal: because I believe that people can make a difference, and because I believe there is a need for difference to be made.

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