Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cast your bread upon the waters

New Direction Community Church dishing out soup
On Saturday Dave Hauth and I took a stroll down to the river.  Down to the space near the eastern terminus of the Hawthorne Bridge.  The place by the fire station on Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade where homeless folks set up camp.  They're always there.  The overhead traffic ramps provide shelter from rain and there is a portable toilet:  attractive amenities for people who have nowhere to go.  They lay bedrolls on the concrete and drape plastic tarps over the carts and wagons that hold their possessions.

A gaggle of people were gathered around a folding table set up on the pavement. Women from the New Direction Community Church were serving soup the color of the Mapocho River out of a stainless steel kettle.  Chunks of onion, potato, carrot, and beef. 

Virginia Noggle then (inset) and now
"We're here every Saturday, 10am," said Virginia Noggle. "We serve food, no questions asked."

"Good of you," I said.

"Cast your bread upon the waters," she said.  She held up a wallet-sized photo.  A pale and emaciated person of indeterminate gender glared.  The face was the face of a person without energy to pretend.  "Here's me back in the day... I was doing it all back then."

"Crack?" I asked.

"Crack, booze, cocaine, heroin.  Anything I could get my hands on."

"And now?" I asked.

"I found redemption through Jesus, my Savior.  I'm here to spread the Word."

"And you come down here every Saturday and dish out soup?" I asked.

"Every Saturday," she confirmed.

"Good for you," said I.

River keeps on rollin'
That evening, the air was warm from the persistent sun.  As I sat in my big lounge chair in my living room, playing games on my laptop, my thoughts returned to that place near the river.  It might not be so bad, on an evening like that, to be lying on a bedroll on the cool pavement, with a bellyful of Mapocho River soup and the song of the river in your ears.  Not so bad, knowing you had not been forgotten.

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