The Neighborhood Potluck
1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men that were casting their gifts into the treasury.
2 And he saw a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than they all:
4 for all these did of their superfluity cast in unto the gifts; but she of her want did cast in all the living that she had.
I like to think of myself as being civically minded, which means that sometimes I participate in neighborhood association meetings. This month’s was a potluck. We meet in one of the conference rooms of the community center. Sometimes (like this time) we eat, we discuss something to do with the neighborhood, maybe we vote. This time around we were discussing city planning. This is a process the city has been working on with my neighborhood for about a year and a half now.
Anyway, this time around was a potluck, like I said. I brought some bread. There was chicken and salad and beans and side dishes and desserts. There is almost always someone that I haven’t seen before at these meetings.
I was helping by doing the food setup. This isn’t hard. Basically, I took everyone’s dish as they came in and set it in an appropriate place on the table. One guy, a guy I recognized as being a homeless man who drifts in and out of the neighborhood and has done so for years, brought a sack with a jar of peanut butter and a can of chicken noodle soup. There was a second homeless gentleman; he didn’t bring anything.
The man I recognized, the one who brought the food, kept interrupting the meeting to ask when we were going to eat. He followed up with the pronouncement that he could not wait for the City Zoning meeting to begin, but then asked when were we going to eat.
Well, as soon as we got to eat, he took his plate and left and didn’t even eat with everyone else. The other guy did eat with us. I won’t say he stuck around for the whole meeting; I didn’t expect him to since I pay rent here and didn’t want to sit through the city planning. I didn’t notice when he snuck out. But the first man pretended to actually live in our neighborhood in the sense that he pays rent or owns a home, while the other guy was just honest. I don’t think he told anyone he was homeless; he probably thought we were able to figure that one out for ourselves. And he stayed and broke bread with us.
After the meeting when I was helping to clean up, I spoke with Mrs. Landlord. I wanted to make sure that she had the sack of food that the first homeless man had brought with him so that she could donate the food to a food pantry. There’s one near her work.
She said, “Oh, that’s going to make me cry…”
“What?” I said.
“It’s like the story of the widow and the coins.”
I know the parable, but the significance was lost on me. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure that a homeless man who brings canned food to a potluck probably didn’t pay for it with his own money. He may have fished it out of a trashcan. The bag was more than a little sticky.
I personally think I like the second homeless man better. I like the guy who didn’t pretend to be something he wasn’t, the one who stuck around and ate with us and talked. Like the widow in the parable, he was sharing all he had to share: himself.