Another Fun Night in the Park

Deacon Herman and I arrived at the park behind the Galusha Pennypacker statue at about 8pm last night. Fr. Chris, Billy and his wife, Anthony, Stephen, and another volunteer were already there and set up. (Sorry Mrs. Billy and “another volunteer.” My swiss cheese brain does even worse with names than it used to.) The line of mostly men already stretched from the park benches to beyond Galusha’s boots on the other side of the park. We added the soup, the handwashing station, the beans/rice/corn, the sandwiches, 10 gallons of iced, tea, more hard-boiled eggs, and baked goods, to the oranges, hard-boiled eggs, peanuts, and baked goods to what Fr. Chris had brought.

Fr. Chris made sure we were all in our places and said a blessing. We began to serve. Philip and Esther McGraw arrived with more peanuts, more sandwiches and pasta with tomato sauce & beef (I think). Stephen had taken hard-boiled eggs to the far end of the line and handed them out all down the line. This helps keep order. The guys have something satisfying to eat right away, or they can choose to keep it for later. When Philip arrived he did the same thing with the bags of peanuts in the shell. Then he manned the hot sauce bottle. I was serving the beans, rice and corn, vegetarian alternative. It was a huge crowd. We were serving for about 45 minutes. There were probably close to 200 people there, but everyone got something. Many got seconds and thirds. That is a lot of people for this early in the month. People were very grateful. So many people expressed heartfelt thanks. So I need to pass that on to all of you. I can only do what I do because of what people give me. You are the almsgivers. I am just an irritant, a nudge, and a facilitator to get those alms to where they are needed.

So thank you. God bless you.

I delivered Alex’s lifeline phone and mail to him. He uses our address. I put out the one little bag of clothing I had to give away. We had a few other conversations. Daniel asks for payer for continued healing for his wife, Sadie. He is going for a scan for a large growth on his face to see if it is cancerous. Please keep Daniel and Sadie and their children in your prayers. Sweeter, kinder people are hard to find; and they have had a tough run.

Stephen and Anthony cleaned up and loaded the TKJ-mobile. Fr. Christos and I had a good conversation. Dn. Herman got to catch up on life and times with the McGraws. Then we left. We dropped off Anthony at his son’s place, being careful to keep the windows and doors shut. We have had strange encounters on that corner. Then we proceeded home listening to great music and talking about Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson and Blind Willie McTell. Of course, we stopped on the way at the Sunoco to say hello to Shamyra.

But we could not have had all that fun, were it not for a whole lot of preparation. Last year Anthony and I took a three hour course over at the city morgue building. That’s where the health dept. offices are. That is how we got the permit to prepare hot food to serve. I also filed for a permit, which by agreement they have to grant, to serve on Thursday nights in the park at 18th & Vine Sts. Our daughter, Lydia, made and froze four quarts of chicken broth last week. She doesn’t waste anything. We raised her well. On her way over to drop those off along with some other garden produce for us, she stopped by a roadside stand to see if she could pick up some bargains. Our little granddaughter told the lady that it was for the homeless, so Lydia told her the whole story about the increasing need, etc. The farmer was delighted to help. She had some corn and some cabbage that she was not comfortable selling at the stand and was going to feed it to her sheep, but would be much happier if people would eat it. The sheep did not need it. She gave us three huge heads of cabbage and about 4 dozen ears of corn. There was nothing al all wrong with it! I made sure of that. I tasted the corn as we were processing it. It was the best that I have tasted this season. That was a real encouragement to Lydia and to us.

So yesterday morning, I went to Produce Junction to get onions, celery and radishes. I went to Giant to get 300 paper, hot/cold cups and 9 pounds of ground beef. Two of the 3 lb. packs were reduced from $8 to $4.37. I was pleased. By the time I got home, Bethann and Kevin had husked the corn. (Kevin helps with the soup every other week.) I heated up the water to blanch the corn in the soup kettle, while Kevin chopped celery and I sliced radishes. I blanched the corn. Kevin grated ginger root. I soaked, then cooked the pinto beans in the roaster pan, with some of the ginger root in the water. We blanched the sweet corn, then rinsed it to cool it down to cut it off the cobs. We put it in bowls to use later in the beans and rice. I ended up using some in the soup, as well. There was just so much! I made a rice cooker full of wholegrain rice with a handful of turmeric and a dash of olive oil. Turmeric is a natural mood elevator. Kevin kept chopping. He chopped more than enough cabbage for the soup. I had to scoop some off the top of the bowl to put in the fridge. It’s going to the shelter down the block today. He chopped three huge onions. He left just after noon, I think.

The beans finished cooking. The rice finished cooking. I combined the rice and the beans and most of the corn. The large roaster pan was full. I added some water, Lawry’s Season Salt, curry, garlic, coriander, and turmeric. Then I put that in the oven at 180 degree to slow cook.

I poured the chicken broth into the soup kettle and began to heat it up. Then I added the rest of the ginger, the radishes, the onions, celery, and cabbage. I added water, fresh ground pepper, turmeric, granulated garlic, allspice, and curry. Then I fried up the ground beef 1-1/2 pounds at a time in the cast iron skillet, cooking it thoroughly and adding it to the soup. Then I added the remaining corn. The 22 quart stock pot was full to the brim. It was a good thing. It was exactly the right amount.

Then there were the people who made sandwiches. Someone snook down my driveway and put eight loaves of sandwiches in the back of my car while I wasn’t looking. Someone in the McGraw household made the pasta dish. I don’t know who made that gross of hard-boiled eggs that Fr. Chris brought out. Four shoeboxes full of hard-boiled eggs were delivered to our house on Thursday from another family.

So our one hour of fun on the parkway on Thursday night is a little bit like those fireworks on the 4th of July. It gives the impression of a spectacular, spontaneous display, but it can only happen with a lot of forethought, work and coordination. I’m just glad that God has my back in this.

One more thought.

We could have so much more fun and do so much more good, if we had regular pledged support and didn’t have to worry about closing down every week. Please give. (Nudge.)