Thursday evening I hung out for a while with a large group of friends. We had a meal together, laughed and told stories. Cherie and I do this almost every Thursday and we really enjoy it.
Most of the friends we shared the evening with are extremely poor. Some are homeless, some bounce in and out of homelessness, many are drug addicts or severe alcoholics, many are mentally ill, many are ex-cons, and many are folks whose life circumstances have just placed them in the company of such people.
Those of us in our group who have been blessed with lives not characterized by addiction and extreme poverty bring most of the food (some of our less fortunate friends sometimes bring some too). After a prayer and voluntary communion for anyone who wants to take it, we sit down to a friendly meal.
There is no agenda. We’re not out to convert anyone or sign them up for rehab or enroll them in a church. We’re not trying to impress them or anyone else with our piety. We’re not coming to gawk at poor people so we can return to our comfortable homes grateful that God didn’t make us like them.
But what we are doing, we hope, is reflecting to those on the margins of society the love that God has for all of us. We hope we’re breaking down some walls and barriers society imposes to separate us from one another. At a bare minimum folks get a meal they wouldn’t otherwise have. Most also get fellowship and a chance to eat a meal they couldn’t afford to buy, without having to surrender their dignity to get it.
The best thing about all this is that it isn’t just a Thursday night thing. These people, who no one else wants, have become part of our community. We know each other by name. We know each other’s stories. We visit during the week. Many of us have each others’ phone numbers. We lend a hand when its needed. We have true relationships and we continue to try to build them more all the time. In a world characterized by judgment, division and manipulation, we try to leave all that ugliness behind.
It’s hard for me to get away from the farm during the Summer, so I’m not part of our “roving feasts” then. But during the Winter I had the great privilege of spending lots of time on the streets meeting the people who live in the shadows of our own community, and I’ve been privileged to become friends with lots of them, along with the amazing love-filled people who are out on the streets with them year round. There are places where I would have been afraid to stop at a stop sign, where I now am comfortable entering and spending time. It is a blessing one probably has to experience to fully appreciate.
Last Thursday evening we had over 100 friends from the streets and slums join us for a meal. We had everything from young families with children to elderly disabled people. Many if not most of these folks would have otherwise had no supper that evening. Some of the leaders at Grace and Main made a big pot of pasta and some of us brought sauce and side dishes. We were all a little concerned at first about whether we had enough food for everyone, but, as it always has before, it turned out to be enough to feed everyone.
Some of the folks we’ve met have turned their lives completely around. I have a friend who was a homeless alcoholic last year, who now is sober, living in a home, working a job and one of our leaders. He is dedicated to helping those who are on the path he walked for 40 years. I have another friend who broke his crack cocaine addiction and now has stability and peace in his life. I also have friends who seem to desperately want to break their addictions, but keep sliding back into them. And I have some who seem resigned to remaining in addiction. And I have some friends whose mental illness seems to have them trapped forever in the mire.
I could go on and on about this, and never come close to doing it justice.
I’ll close by encouraging everyone to check out Grace and Main Fellowship (the website is HERE). If you do the facebook thing, please consider “liking” the Grace and Main page. Grace and Main is a non-traditional Christian community. There is no church building or overhead. When we gather we do it in homes or donated spaces. No one gets any salary. 100% of all the money we receive goes to help the needy in the meanest parts of downtown Danville, Virginia.
And for any of y’all in the Danville area, consider joining us one Thursday evening for a meal. It’s a great place to make some friends you would probably otherwise never meet.