Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas for the Homeless, 2009

A southeaster was blowing moving the clouds across the sky like horses galloping in the field, pushing all Cape Town's debris on the wind. The “Cape Doctor” had arrived. Gritty sand stung faces and sand blasted eyelids. Aloes leaned on their stalks, quiver trees quivered and the birds huddled in crevices, just trying to keep from being blown away. The wind had been howling for two days.

It was almost noon on the second Sunday in December, the day Central Methodist Mission was going to have a Christmas dinner for the homeless right on Church (Kerk) Street, a brick thoroughfare between buildings, usually home to cafes and street sellers. Previously, the dinner had been held in the Church Street church hall, but the hall only holds 85 people and each year 40 or so more people were fed dinner downstairs by the outside door. So each year, there were ever-growing numbers of people physically fighting for their chance to get in the door because everyone was worried there wouldn't be enough food for them. It was becoming dangerous for them and for us.

So there we were, battling the wind with paper tablecloths stapled to the tables, not daring to put soda into paper cups, working feverishly in the kitchen, waiting for the guests to arrive. We were ready to go.

Despite the wind, we were all very happy. The African Image Cafe (see rooster in above picture) let us use their kitchen to serve from which meant we could move the food from the counter on trays directly out into the street, not up/down a long flight of stairs as had been done previously.

And because of the ever-increasing number of homeless that the church members feed on the street each Sunday, the decision had been made to provide for 200 people.

The guests had started to arrive early, some watching us from 9 am on as we set up the rental tables and chairs. Others showed up at the last minute, but all wanted Christmas dinner: a chicken leg and thigh; spaghetti; a piece of corned beef; rice; beetroot; and tomato, onion and pepper salad, with malva pudding, ice cream and peaches for dessert; a feast. And of course, there were “cool drinks.”

It was time. The CMM team sprang into action. The guests were seated. After prayers, they ate; young, old, families with children, and some men and women who had been on their own for years.

Some we recognized from talking with them each week on the street; others were new, but all were grateful for the chance to sit down and enjoy to a real meal with family and and friends.

There were 210 guests in all.

As they left the adults were given a gift bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, soap, a banana or apple (depending on whether or not they had their front teeth) and a bit of candy. The children got fruit and sweets.

Sarah, please say thank you to all the members of the Mission Committee at Southminster for helping to provide the monies for the meat, the soap and the washcloths. All was appreciated. Without your help we would not have been able to be so generous.

Each year Floyd and I look forward to this event because in our small way we want to support those who have been helping the homeless in Cape Town each week for the last 22 years. Thank you for supporting our efforts.