On a recent Tuesday evening I sat at the welcome table at our Community Dinner visiting and greeting our guests as they arrived. I watched people come in from the rain, take a free meal ticket, and find a place to sit. As the evening wore on and we got closer to the meal, I was deeply moved by the cumulative effect of welcoming our guests. Each individual brings their story and those stories seemed to be particularly visible that night.
There were some who were bent over with age or with pain, moving slowly with a cane or walker. Others were more energetic, stripping off layers of rain protection, clearly having spent at least the day, if not the previous evening, outside. Some were cheerful, others were anxious or reserved. They carried their stories with them through our doors.
Most of us learn to construct a façade that we project to the world around us. We want people to see that we are successful, happy, capable people. We want to be liked or admired. What I realized on Tuesday night was that homelessness, suffering, hunger, and fear strip away our façades. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that homelessness, suffering, hunger, and fear tell their own stories.
The truth is that all our stories include struggles and pain, but most of us are fortunate to be able to keep our image of well-being and success together. Most of us have the privilege of relative comfort, safety and well-being. Our true self may not be that happy façade, and it may not be the faces of suffering, hunger, anxiety or homelessness I saw on various guests to our dinner.
Our true self is something deeper that we all share, as human beings made in the image of God. Our true self includes both the happy, good face we would like to project and the suffering, struggling parts of our lives as well. The people who come to dinner on Tuesday night and the people who come to receive communion on Sunday all bear the image of Christ. We carry our shared human stories as people who hunger for basic sustenance, for respect and community, and for love.
Yours in Christ,