Friday, February 27, 2009

Vintage 1990

Manna is fortunate to have a variety of helpers from many different organizations. One of our newer partnerships is with Gwynedd Mercy College. Part of the incoming freshman curriculum includes a community service component. Earlier this week, Mary, Carissa and Dan came to help with the soup kitchen.

As it approached the end of the lunch hour, most of our regulars had eaten already, so the students helped sort incoming food donations. We sometimes receive items that have expired, and as they were sorting, they came across this can of evaporated milk. To their surprise, the expiration date on the can was the year they were born - 1990.

We explained to them that people don't intentionally drop off bad food; they just don't think to look. And while we would rather not fill our dumpster with expired food, we still thank them for bringing their donation. Besides, it can be fun finding the oldest can...

Friday, February 20, 2009


... can come from any direction. One of my favorites is Vicki. She's a senior at North Penn High School and is ranked number two in her class. She leads Manna on Main Street's Youth Advisory Board, helping to draw young people into community service. She also serves on Manna's Board of Directors. In her spare time, Vicki is coauthoring a book about Manna (with 100% of the proceeds from the book being donated to our mission).

So whenever I think I'm too busy, too tired or too stressed to accomplish something, I think about Vicki, who will awake at 4:00 AM to do homework, who will attend a 2-hour meeting at Manna on a school night, who will inspire other youth to come and serve.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Life in the Slow Lane

We could call her Rosie. During World War II she was one of the original Rosie the Riveters, working in the ship yards of Philadelphia. Today, she is 93 years old and frequents Manna on Main Street to share a meal with her friends.

A number of months ago, Rosie came to the conclusion that she needed a car. Her old one stopped working and had been towed away. While she appreciated us taking her to the doctor and on miscellaneous errands, she wanted the freedom to go when and where she pleased. We had a concern that her driving skills were on the decline and were worried she could put herself in danger. So we volunteered to take her to different car dealers to help her find the right car. What she didn't know is that we would call the car dealer ahead of time and explain the situation. We had the dealer push the driver's seat all the way back so Rosie couldn't reach the pedals. The car dealer would then solemnly tell her that was all the closer the seat would go.

For a while we had a lot of success with our plan, but we were eventually foiled. Someone else took Rosie to another dealer and she bought a car. We were, however, pleasantly surprised to find that she drove very well. It takes Rosie quite a while to park her car - even longer to back out - and she motors along slowly and safely. We eventually told Rosie about our scheme. She laughed and thought it was a pretty good trick. But she said she still trusts us, knowing that we were just concerned for her well being.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The book claims...

"Here is the world's most famous master plan for seizing and holding power."

And yet within its covers I find this observation, which could seem contradictory to the claim of seizing and holding power: "a prudent man must always tread the path of great men and imitate those who have excelled."*

This could lead us in a couple of directions: judging a book by its cover or taking words out of context. For me, everything is context. The books we read, the people we meet, the situations we find ourselves in, all allow us the opportunity to provide context. We decide how to respond, how we can bring good to the surface.

At Manna, I witness it nearly every day. Too many people show up to volunteer, so we scramble to find a way to engage everyone so they have a sense of contributing. A guest arrives who has not bathed recently, and we discreetly turn on the ceiling fan and open a window. We deny financial aid to a client and they become angry; still, we tell them they are welcome to share a meal with us now and take groceries home with them.

Sometimes we stumble, but we remind ourselves that no matter what the book or situation claims, we set the context.

* from The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli