By Sister Joette Ebert
Non-driver that I am, I typically travel via public transportation—bus, mostly. Over the last three years, I have made it a practice to get off the bus several stops before the place where I volunteer. SOME —So Others Might Eat is an interfaith, community-based organization that helps Washington, D.C.’s needy.
Before the pandemic, we served breakfast and lunch in our dining room, 365 days a year—providing substantial meals, comfortable space and comradery among most of our guests. As the “greeter,” I had the privilege of welcoming folks, sharing a word or two, assuring folks we weren’t serving tuna noodle casserole again, interrupting arguments about whether Duke, North Carolina, UConn, Syracuse, Maryland or Georgetown has the best team, making extra space for wheelchairs, laughing with those sharing some sweet nonsense, embracing those lost in confusion, answering questions about just how many times God forgives an unfaithful woman, and praying for all those whose worries and fears cannot be counted. In most cases, we called each other by name. This made all the difference.
And now, since we cannot provide meals within our dining room structure, several volunteers gather each day to make hundreds of sandwiches, wrap and package meals and assist with distribution. (I think tables are very holy things, particularly those at which people gather.) I work with great people—young and old and in between—and we pray for that day when our tables will be full once again.
On most days, I get off the bus before I need to, and I visit with dear ones who live on North Capitol and several adjacent streets. A great many people continue to sleep in tents, though these need to be dismantled early each morning. Some people are awaiting word regarding possible shelter. Most are hopeful it will soon be warmer.
On a January morning, I stopped to visit with an older gentleman and his brother. We sat on milk crates. He peeled an apple and shared some wheat thins. Then he gestured to me with his chin and told me to say the blessing. The truth is I have encountered such holiness on the streets where one might not otherwise recognize the kingdom.