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Food for the Soul

It doesn’t look like much. Like a big picnic maybe. Over gray skies.

But it’s more than that. More than boxes of food on tables. More than people in line with thin jackets and bent umbrellas.

It’s hope. And it’s love.

And for some of the people in line, it’s what they’ve come for more than food–a little piece of hope.

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What’s here is the food bank. The Angel 1 Food Bank in Puyallup, WA.

And every Friday of the year from 3-5pm–except Black Friday when people would rather stand in line at Walmart–the food bank sets up outdoors and feeds 60-75 families and twice that at Christmas.

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This Angel 1 food bank is the vision of Pastors Jocely and Jennifer of Shalom church. But alongside them are those of us who volunteer. And those of us who keep coming back Friday after Friday to volunteer. Because there’s something remarkable about this place that blesses both the giver and the receiver.

Here Jennifer explains the numbers for the food before we start.

Since food donations are different each week–some Fridays there is an abundance of frozen turkey and eggs–other Fridays we’re swimming in lettuce or oranges, someone has to physically count the number of each food item. Then that number is divided by the average number of families coming through the line. If there are 220 small yogurts, each family will be given 3.

 

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But bread is different. Often, there is such an abundance of bread that  each family is invited to have as much bread as they’d like.

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When it’s time to start, we load up our arms with grocery bags and we find a buddy, if we can. Because the bags get heavy. And when the bags get heavy, it makes better sense to have two of us carrying six bags, than one of us clinking canned food against our shins alone.

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The folks in line here have been here for hours. The guys in front often say that they’ve been here since 10 a.m. holding their spot.

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Then this is what it looks like. Volunteers putting food into bags for other people, as together they all shuffle down the line.

Sometimes there’s even a rainbow.

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And sometimes it simply rains and you can forget the rainbow, and it looks like this. People in hoods and rain jackets putting food into bags and shuffling down the tables.

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And sometimes some of us improvise…

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Until, in some form…

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We figure out how to keep the water off our head.

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I suppose it’d be easier for people if it was a drive through food bank, where you honk and somebody runs a bag of food out to your rolled down window. But that’s not how we do it here. We want to shake hands with every Mike, Bob, Jim, Will, Shelia, Shirley, Ricardo as they reach the front of the line.  And then we want to walk with them down the tables filling their bags with food. Could they lug their own bags? Probably. But we want to serve them by carrying their bags to their car or their bicycle or by loading their suitcase so they can drag it to the bus stop.

And  then, because we know that it’s Jesus that changes people–not us, not the food–we ask each person if we can pray for them.

And so huddled outside their car, in a bowed triangle we thank God for his healing power, his gift of food, his favor…

And sometimes we hug. And sometimes we wipe our eyes. And always we wave.

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And then we walk back to the front of the line, to meet the next Bob or Sue or Sonya still waiting beneath a big umbrella. Or a borrowed one. Or a baseball cap.

And we shuffle down the line together.

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Always in the back there is Bill and his little food stand…

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And always there are hot dogs and hot soup, hot chocolate and popcorn free for the taking.

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But truly, whether dry…

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Or completely soggy…

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Ain’t nothing but a blessing to be a blessing at the food bank!

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