It is a regular event, one you might expect.
There are those that line up and wait for the doors to open. They are “those” people. The ones that hang out till close, wander the night, and then need to fill their need and wait for the doors to open. They know each other. They are regulars. And they are habitual. As if they have no where else to go. Many appear daily, they are recognized and welcomed, Ahhh the fellowship of this bar.
And this day is special… it is Christmas, and most places are closed… but this place is waiting and ready. This is not your regular bar… This is Iron Gate. It is a food bar, a soup kitchen open on Christmas day, and every day. Their mission statement… Our mission is simple: we feed hungry people.
And on Christmas I said yes to being their Santa Bob.
Santa needs to go the extra mile to touch lives when folks live in tents or under bridges or any place that will allow a person to get a moment of warmth or protection. Comfort is an optional word in the vocabulary of these folks. But Iron Gate is a place of comfort, warmth, nourishment, every morning from 8am-10:30. Food, shelter, a smile, a moment of service to those who are rejected, dejected, infected, unconnected. Iron Gate serves “crackers.” I don’t mean saltines. I mean folks who have fallen through the cracks. The mentally challenged, the disenfranchised, the shopping cart pushers, folks without an address.
This is NOT Cheers. But they all have names.. Not everybody knows all their names… but nearly everyone is know by someone. These are a fragrant people. . . in quality of spirit as well as other ways. And I am sure that Iron Gate is a home for their hope. But the holidays are especially trying for most in need. Rich or poor. But the crackers now hold a special place in my heart.
This is a good place 365 days a year.
Grab a plate. Sit and enjoy. Stay a while. Go back for more. An someone will even smile when they clean up the mess….. no tipping please.
But this day was special. Santa got to sit and watch. He was assisted by his elves, Morey and Giacomo. As always…. the elves did all the work. But Santa gets the headlines. And this is what Santa saw.
Hungry folk, homeless folk, down on their luck folk, down home folk like you and me… but they are folks with few options. If these folks are “milking” the system like I read so often on Facebook, they really SUCK at it. I am absolutely certain that these folks don’t have what I think people who have stuff think they have.
As and aside, I have heard the phrase “there but by the grace of God, go I.” Well let me say, for all you believers out there, those that recite that phrase… someone needs to put some skin on your Jesus. I WAS There. That place. There but by the grace of God go I, and the grace of my beloved friends who opened their home to me and my dog for 18 months. Nearly broke for 18 months while I tried to get back to life after multiple tragedies and bad decisions. Bad decisions made at an age where I should have known better. The result was broke and homeless at age 59, with a van, a dog, and a few hundred bucks. J&G put flesh on their Jesus.. AND A ROOF OVER OUR HEADS. Tank and I will never forget that.
So maybe those panhandlers on the corner are out there milking the system. Maybe they have such an incredible life they just need to stand on a corner with a cardboard sign and hope for $3 more then head to their secret home in the hills and take your quarter to pay the cable bill. Or maybe they will waste it on a smoke or a drink and a moment of comfort, instead of opening a savings account and build for the future. I don’t know what they will do. I do know where there next meal will come from if they want it.
Well this is what Santa saw. He saw survivors. They come in all shades and all sizes… but they all appear to live to survive until tomorrow. And Iron Gate puts just enough flesh on their bodies, and flesh on their Jesus so the crowd that gathers today can return tomorrow. There is no preaching, there is only flesh. Tangible and loving. And because of this, Santa saw the sparkle of hope in the eyes of a grateful crowd.
But Christmas was a special day… There WERE presents. The appearance of the “holy trinity.” And recipients seemed as excited and grateful as a kitten with a new empty cardboard box.
The “holy trinity” of gifts.
Candy, gloves, socks. Sugar, warm, dry. Joyful recipients. No Bah-humbug here. Hark the Herald Angels sing. Gifts received to an hallelujah chorus of thank-yous.
Gifts received by folks who are grateful in the face of such trauma.
The holy trinity. Skin on your Jesus.
Energy, comfortable hands and feet. Blessings. Tears. Laughter. Though there was a small crush of folks trying to get to the head of the receiving line, there was NO unruly outbreak like folks on black Friday fighting over a $5 toaster.
Santa took notes. It is a very short list of things to keep in his sleigh. And I need to get a bumper sticker for the sled.
CAUTION: FREQUENT STOPS FOR SHOPPING CART PEOPLE
And a bag to hold some socks, some gloves, and a roll of lifesavers.
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