All week it has been the same.
Long lines of people seeking assistance. Old men and women, mothers with crying babies, homeless men, all races, all cultures, several languages, from all parts of the inner city. . .they lined up to receive what we had to offer.
Monday morning well before 9:00 a.m. people started lining up outside our doors. They waited to receive food for themselves and their families. By day's end, over 350 families had been served.
Hundreds of people passed through our doors and jammed our interview areas and our grocery store.
Aching feet. Fussy kids. Impatient and hungry. Good natured and polite. Calculating how long until they could get inside and find a seat. Wondering about our food supply. Worrying about bills and health and shelter and work. . .with Christmas piled on for good measure.
Lines of people all day long.
Tuesday was no different. . .more lines of people, mostly women and children. Hundreds of people.
Wednesday evening before 6:00 p.m. the lines returned. The first of two large Christmas gift outreach efforts got underway. With so many clothes, toys and other gifts filling our interview space, people were forced to wait outside. . .in line.
It will be the same tomorrow when we repeat the exercise as a part of the church's community outreach. More lines, no doubt.
Lines make me sad and sick and angry and impatient and motivated to see things change and change dramatically.
People shouldn't have to stand in charity lines to provide for their families. It should be different.
I expect that over 80% of the people who stood in line today live in households in which breadwinners get up every day and go to work. That assessment would square with previous surveys we have conducted.
The problem is people can work and still be forced to stand in line to ask for help.
It shouldn't be this way in a nation like ours, in a city like this.
We are doing what we can, but we need different and better approaches.
Mostly, we need change.
I'm hoping the New Year will bring us new and better solutions. Somehow we need to do away with all of these lines.