Monday, November 24, 2014

DINNER WITH THE HOMELESS

The following poem was written several years ago, following a Christmas dinner for the homeless, at Beth Israel Worship Center, then located in Garfield, NJ. Well, I think Thanksgiving is as good a time as any to share it.

Let me take this opportunity to wish each of you a blessed and thankful Thanksgiving Day.

Photo credit: lilesnet.com


THE HOMELESS DINNER

Beth Israel Messianic Center

Long ago, periodic collect calls
came from various cities around the country
from Brad, down on his luck
desperate for quick cash

Tried tough-love
Get a job
Get it together
Go to a mission
His sinister response to that last suggestion
still burns in my ears…

Before I sit through a sermon

for a bowl of soup

I'll stick a gun in my mouth

That catapulted me out the door
to the Western Union desk
one more time

Every winter
my congregation sponsors a dinner
for the homeless

We circulate fliers at shelters
and Penn Station in Newark, the week prior
and arrange for buses and vans
to pick up all who want to come
We cook up our best dishes
bake our most sumptuous treats
and set each table with linen
and a fragrant pink rose in a bud vase
We donate warm coats
and scarves and gloves
soap, toothbrushes and paste
This year there were even
plenty of new eyeglasses

Gary Selman has been emceeing
the event for years
in faded jeans and red muffler
He tells jokes, makes wisecracks
and strums his guitar
An avid collector of Elvis memorabilia,
Gary humorously strikes a "You Ain't Nothin'
But a Hound Dog," pose and asks
Who wants to sing an Elvis song?

The Sanctuary bulges
with a few hundred people
who appear street-wise and unchurched, so
their quick reply takes me by surprise
especially in light of the long ago words
that still smolder like gunpowder

No! they exclaim

No! We want to sing about Jesus!


Gladly, Gary sets himself to strumming
songs to the King of Kings, the Rock of Ages
instead of the long dead King of Rock

One enthusiastic young man
with a Baptist choir voice
takes the mic and sings
"What a Friend We Have in Jesus"
another, a victim of AIDS
comes forward and gives his testimony
Then homeless and congregants
break bread together
in white linen circles of brotherly love

I can see a lot of TLC

went into the cooking, says one


I hope I can get a pair of glasses, says another

Do you think there'll be a coat in my size?
The lining of this one is torn. See?

Twenty-six people accept Jesus

No sermon for soup
Just love in action

That's what serving Jesus
is really all about

 Maude Carolan



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