Character is tested, revealed and further developed by the decisions we make in the most challenging times. I open with this statement simply because today I had the most illuminating experience thus far in my life. Some of you may know that I am currently on a 30 day challenge that restricts me to a food stamp budget and limits me to basically not going to any restaurants; while maintaining a healthy diet and only spending $50 a week on groceries.
In January, 1969, the Free Breakfast for School Children Program also known as “The Breakfast Club” was initiated at St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland, CA by the Black Panther Party. The Panthers would cook and serve food to the poor inner city youth of the area. Initially run out of a St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland, the Program became so popular that by the end of the year, the Panthers set up kitchens in cities across the nation, feeding over 10,000 children every day before they went to school.
By 1971 the Breakfast Club program had reached Des Moines, IA. Though the location of the program varied year by year, ultimately it would find its home at Trinity United Methodist Church on the south east corner of 8th St & College Ave. To this day the program still continues there after more than 40 years and talk about the Black Panther Party has almost faded away. In 2001 a new initiative was born called “The Supper Club” parented by two separate entities by the names of New Haven Group and the Children and Family Urban Ministries.
The supper club is a program that is open to the public where children and families can go to get a warm meal and seek shelter if only for a moment. The Ministry also has an after school program available to children on Wednesdays and any day that the Des Moines Public Schools are not in session. Where children can go to develop their community skills and focus on their grades along with other learning skills.
I was informed of the supper club by a friend of mine that told me about the inexpensive simple meals that were free and would be in the presence of great company. Since my car is still in the shop and my mother needed to use the other vehicle I decided to be dropped off there knowing that I would find my way back. As I entered the large brick structure through a bright red door; jogged down a short flight of stairs to what seemed to be the cafeteria of the church. The room was filled with the most diverse group of children and families that I had ever seen. I walked right up to where the serving line started and I was greeted by the most charming group of older people. I really tried hard to not seem out of place because I didn’t want any attention due to the fact that I wanted to have a real sense of the situation without any intrigue.
Of course immediately they were on to me, but without judgment I was welcomed with out-stretched arms. I received a tray with a Styrofoam plate that had spaghetti pasta, meat-less sauce or as my friends in Philadelphia would say, “Gravy” accompanied by an ordinary lettuce salad and a piece of garlic bread. Unknowing as to where I should sit I settled into a seat that was right in the middle of the room.
Lyfe Jennings once said, “Anybody can be slick at talking, but it takes a real man to be slick at listening!” so at this moment I’m done talking now I’m listening. Being an avid observer of people to took in my company and embraced each and everyone around me. I offered a listening ear to anyone who wanted to be heard.
The first person I spoke with was a gentleman who seemingly was in his late 40’s and was staying at Hope Ministries Bethel Mission just a mile up the road. He told me that of course he could’ve ate at the mission but he called his change of scenery, “going out to dinner” he offered his story of a life that had a bright future but quickly dimmed to a fall from grace orchestrated by a life of drugs.
A few minutes went by and another man joined us, but this man was wearing a name tag that said Mr. Charles. He was one of the staff members of the program who shared the rich history of the program with me without even questioning why I was asking so many questions. While in the middle of our conversation; a young lady interrupted to show Mr. Charles a purse that she had made by hand from scraps as if she just created the newest design that will be in Chanel stores for the spring collection launch. When she walked away Mr. Charles had informed me that the young girl had lost everything she owned in a house fire that ultimately took the life of two of her family members and was currently homeless.
Balance, wisdom and love are key words in the bible. Operating in these qualities will accelerate your progress. A person who is filled with wisdom and love will think a matter through, seek and receive direction from the Lord and handle the situation in a balanced way.
When I left I walked the mile and a half to my mother’s house to wait for her return. During my walk I realized balance was the destiny behind my visit to the supper club today. To think the other day I was excited with myself for purchasing a new $200 wallet from the Coach store while a little girl just made herself a new purse from the scraps of clothes that in a fire that took the life of her family members which to me is absolutely priceless. Also I am complaining about how inconvenient it is that my Mercedes-Benz is at the dealership being fixed while there are people trying to figure out if they are going to have a place to rest their head for the night in away from the cold chill of the winter season.