Friday, June 26, 2009

Sneak Preview

Folks will often ask us, who are "those people" who come to Manna on Main Street. Some have used the phrase "those people" in a demeaning way to describe our clients. Others, more innocent, are curious about who finds their way to a soup kitchen. To help clear up the confusion, we've written a book about the people who have come through our doors and how we've changed their lives. Stay tuned for details on when the book will be available.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Volunteerism = $0

Some organizations proudly proclaim that their volunteers provided "$xxx" of service over a given time period. They count the number of volunteer hours provided, multiply by a given hourly rate, and publish the results. There's even a web site that estimates the dollar value of volunteerism by state, as if someone's time in Pennsylvania is worth more or less than an individual's time in New Jersey.

At Manna on Main Street we believe that assigning a dollar value to an individual's time implies that it can be bought, purchased, had for a price. The practice of monetizing a gift trivializes not only the service, but the intention behind the service. It's like when a young child you care deeply about scrawls in crayon, and presents to you a picture colored outside the lines. You take that picture with great joy and hang it on the refrigerator for everyone to see. You never take that picture down or throw it away. And probably the last thing on your mind is to attempt to calculate the dollar value of an act of love.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Voices in our Heads

For the most part, the folks who come to Manna on Main Street are pretty much like the rest of us... they work, have families, have their joys and struggles. Every so often, individuals will show up who some would label as "different." A number of years ago a young man came to eat every day. He wore an aluminum foil hat. Upon entering the building he would spin around three times, then sit down and enjoy his meal. We might wonder what voices were in his head, telling him to wear the hat, spin around, and if interrupted from his routine, disappear for days. The voices he heard weren't necessarily bad, just different from ours. Too, how he responded to the voices really did no one any harm.

I think about the voices we hear. Sometimes they are not always helpful, but hopefully, how we respond brings about some good. We try to pay close attention to the voices we hear, never knowing how they might positively impact those around us and how they might reveal to us ways in which we can increase our service to others.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Summer Vacation (or not)

As the summer approaches, we do our best to change things up at Manna on Main Street. We ask our regular volunteers, those who come in each week to serve, to take the summer off. They really deserve a break, and too, it opens up the schedule for adults and youth who are available because of time off from school or work. Some of the regulars have said yes, they could use a break, and we probably won't see them again until September. Still, others don't want to take the time off. Coming to Manna and seeing our guests has become such a big part of their lives, that they are reluctant to give that up.

Manna's vision is "that everyone might be fed." At times we can forget that being fed, and the sense of wholeness that brings, can come from serving as well as being served...