The day started with another missionary activity, a visit to a soup kitchen. We actually had to work, peeling and cutting vegetables and serving lunch to the needy. This soup kitchen really relies on volunteers and visiting mission groups to get the job done, so we worked for real. Next to me was an Israeli high school girl who volunteers there every Friday. The peeling and cutting was in fact therapeutical, but the sight of the crowd we fed was not. They were mostly elderly emigrants from the former Soviet Union, and they were the typical products of a communist system, i.e. if something is offered for free, take it, and take more than you need, and even more. Hoard. If that is food, store it in the freezer, feed your children and grandchildren, and save your money. There was bickering and accusations were flying of someone eating twice and trice. Some were openly bagging the food in prepared carts, others were sliding the food discreetly from their plates and into containers hidden in their handbags. There was pushing and shoving. It was mayhem. It was very unpleasant. I said to another volunteer that half of them probably lie about their neediness, she said, no, all of them do.
Nobody was anywhere near undernourishment, quite the opposite.
There were some needy people among them, no doubt, but they were invisible in the pushy crowd.
This experience created the feeling opposite to what it was intended to create. The intention of the guy who runs the soup kitchen is, no doubt, noble, but I wish these people who benefit from his hard work and other people’s generosity would be more palatable.
And yet, and yet… the woman was sliding the food off her plate and into her bag discretely because she was embarrassed. There were others there I had not noticed, who must have been embarrassed to be reduced to getting handouts. There were others who were so embarrassed they were trying to be invisible and they almost were. The only visible ones were the loud and pushy. And hoarding is human nature, that is how people survived. The ones who didn’t hoard, did not. I don’t hoard, I would never survive in dire circumstances. Altruism and sharing is acquired, not genetically built in. I am lucky I had the means to give, not to take. Thus we should feed the ones less fortunate, even the obnoxious ones, so the quiet and embarrassed could hide behind their backs, become invisible, and not to feel so embarrassed anymore. Even if some would grab more than their fair share, nobody should go hungry.
We went back to the Old City after that and in the Christian Quarter we plunged into another pool of fanaticism – the Church of the Holly Sepulcher, via Delarosa and the Stations of the Cross. Ironically, those sites are smack in the middle of the Arab souk – with vendors representing exactly what Jesus stood against.
Yes, Pontius, I can understand why you hated this city!