Monday, October 31, 2011

Silent Sirens

If you walk down any Main Street and see an ambulance racing by, sirens blaring, you have a pretty good idea that some type of crisis is playing out. Perhaps there’s an accident nearby, or an individual at home has fallen seriously ill. The noise, the flashing lights are a warning, indicators of on-setting calamity.

If you walk the hallway of Manna on Main Street, the sirens are silent, and yet equally real. Individuals and families are in crisis, desperate for food, jobs, health care. But you can’t always tell from the surface. People continue to struggle on their own, and it’s only when we engage them, heart to heart, that we learn their life stories, and hopefully help guide them along to a better place…

Monday, October 24, 2011

Looking After Family

For better or worse, we do not get to choose our family members, save for our spouse. Sometimes the dynamics are very positive, and other times relationships may not be ideal; but, in the end, family sticks together and looks out for each other.

So it is with the Manna family, those that gather around our dining table each day. Some very good friendships have evolved over the years, and there are some instances where it is best when certain people don’t sit together.

What is heartening is how they all look out for each other. If an individual doesn’t show up to eat for a few days, the word gets out. Family members will comb the streets looking for the lost loved one. Volunteers and Manna staff members become part of the family as well, showing concern for each person’s well-being.

Though most of Manna’s family would choose not to be there, they know that there is always someone there to look after them, to make sure they are fed…

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Out of Control

On the surface, life at Manna can appear hectic. If you were to observe the action over the next few weeks (actually until the New Year), you might think things are out of control. Phones are ringing, people are constantly streaming in, asking for help, looking to volunteer, and food donations are piling up in the hallway.

While we strive to have systems in place to accommodate people’s needs and maintain operational processes, we understand that service to others can be messy, chaotic, and not always follow a script or plan. What matters is how we treat people, how we engage them, showing them that no matter who they are, not matter their life standing, that there is a place for them at Manna, here, in our community…

Monday, October 10, 2011

Small-Big Picture

Have you ever tried to take a photograph of a tight space, perhaps a room. Often it’s impossible to capture a small space and represent what it is like. The same could be said for trying to take a picture of an expansive blue sky, one filled with wispy clouds and the billowy trails of jets gone by. It's just too big to grasp without actually seeing it.

So it could be said of Manna: the space, the rooms are so small, it can be difficult for a picture to demonstrate its size. And too, the caring, the impact, is so huge, the only way to truly appreciate it, is to experience it…

Monday, October 3, 2011

Getting Put in my Place

It would have been easy enough to feel self-important.

I attended three different community events this past weekend. Two of them were fundraisers put on by supporters of Manna: the Merck Federal Credit Union and Villari’s Self Defense Center. Between the two organizations, they raised over $20,000. Feeling pretty proud of the relationships I had developed, I moved on to the Lansdale Octoberfest. There I was warmly greeted by a number of prominent community members.

While standing there, Mayor Andy Szekely asked if I would help judge the pie-eating contest. After trading a few jokes about the importance of the position, I walked over to the table of contestants. There were about 20 kids sitting there with their hands behind their back, excited with the messy prospect of eating chocolate cream pie. One person at the table, however, was not a child, but a young man who I recognized as being a frequent guest at Manna. He sat there with dull eyes as his pie was set before him.

The mayor called out for the eating to begin, and after just a couple of minutes a young boy was declared the winner. Moms and dads rushed forward to congratulate their kids and help them get cleaned up, but the young man at the table lingered. I walked up to him and mentioned he had quite a bit of chocolate on his face, and that he might want to get a napkin. He noted with concern that his stuff, a backpack and jacket, were there on the ground and he didn’t want to leave them there unattended. I said I would watch his things and so he went off in search of a napkin. After wandering around a while, a woman noticed him, handed him a napkin and he came back wiping off his mouth. He wasn’t doing a very good job. There was still chocolate on his nose and chin. I took the napkin from him and began wiping him clean.

It struck me that what I was doing right then was the most important thing I had done the entire weekend, possibly the entire year. Here was a young man, and yet a child in need of simple care – wiping his face clean – so he could move on in the day, feel looked after, cared for, with a sense of self-dignity. Perhaps I’m reading too much into how he might have felt, but I know what was stirring inside of me: what makes us important is not who we are, but how we respond to the call of serving, especially to the little ones, no matter what they look like, no matter their age, no matter their standing…