Faith Stories: The Hunger Banquet
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”- Matthew 25:35
Theresa and I were setting up a booth inside the LSU union one evening to participate in “The Hunger Banquet,” a program put on by Volunteer LSU to raise awareness of the relational problem of poverty and hunger. I will admit that I was a reluctant participant, as we were going on our 16th straight evening of not being home. While we were setting up, I was watching the students getting the room ready, laughing and enjoying themselves while they worked. After a while people started to arrive and were assigned areas to sit. There were three groups, the wealthy, the middle class and the poor. The wealthy tables were served a very nice catered meal. The middle class tables had a buffet meal where you serve yourself. The poor were sitting on the floor, and received a small cup of rice with dirty (coffee grounds) water. While everyone was eating, a Sociology professor from LSU got up and gave many interesting statistics on hunger and poverty. After she was finished, Theresa spoke to the group on what the Shepherd’s Market was and how we help those who are hungry. After she spoke, the crowd was very quiet. It was obvious that they were all amazed at the numbers of families and children that are served each month.
Then a man raised his hand and was handed a microphone. He said that he was not there to speak, but after hearing Theresa, he felt he needed to say something. He said that he came from a middle class upbringing, had a college degree and was probably considered upper middle class. He has three children, and his wife is a stay-at-home mom. He was involved in an accident and was out of work for several months with very little income. His family was struggling to keep up with their monthly expenses and was having trouble buying groceries to feed the family. Someone told them about the Shepherd’s Market, and that they helped anyone who came for food. He and his wife came to St. John’s on a pantry day and went through the intake process to “shop” at the Shepherd’s Market. His family came for food for six months before they were back on their feet and able to support themselves.
When the banquet was over, several students came to our table and asked how they could help serve. Some of these students are still coming to help on Monday evenings. The funny thing about the encounter with this man was that he recognized Theresa and me before the banquet even started. Theresa had handled his intake paperwork the day they came to the pantry for the first time. He recognized me from an encounter we had at the Dollar Tree on Burbank Drive. I had gone one evening to purchase food for the pantry and was loading the food into the pickup truck. He saw my Shepherd’s Market shirt, and came over to help me load the food into the truck. When we finished, I shook his hand and said, “Thank you; you don’t know how much you helped me because of my bad back.” He said, “I saw your shirt and knew that I needed to help. The Shepherd’s Market fed my family when we needed food.”
This experience has made me realize that the work that St. John’s is doing through the Shepherd’s Market is positively and powerfully impacting our community. I pray that God continues to help us be a “feeding people.”