“Move along everyone,” the soup-spoon man instructed, as he dished up ladle after ladle of steaming-hot vegetable broth. “We've a lot of folks to feed tonight.”
Mary and Bill moved along the crowded line as fast as anyone else. What’s the rush? Each thought.
Finding a spot to sit proved a difficult task this evening; the weather, being bitterly cold outside, had pierced its unwilling patrons of the street to the bone. This mission’s kitchen served over one thousand folks per day, sometimes more, and this night… many more.
Mary and Bill found a place near the far end of the mission, being quickly joined by Joey-Two-Shoes, though most of his friends simply called him ‘Joey’. Joey was awarded the additional nickname of ‘Two-Shoes’ one cold winter after he lost, or had stolen, his only pair of shoes in the world… in his world.
“Hey,” greeted Joey as he sat down next to his two friends. “Cold one out tonight, isn't it.”
“Mighty cold,” responded Mary. “Colder than a politician's kiss.”
Laughing, Bill added, “And colder than the doorways to cold crypts, doorways overlaid with the gold stolen from the poor by the wealthy!”
“You got that right, my man,” affirmed Joey.
As the trio sat, ate, talked, and drank their coffee, they also observed… observed the crowd of hungry patrons; patrons who feasted regularly and those who appeared on occasion, patrons who were victim to economic misfortune, suffered from debilitating mental disorders, had succumbed to dire circumstances, and those bearing the heavy tolls of plain old street life.
Nurse Sally sat within eye view of the three, sipping her soup and dipping her sourdough rolls into her bowl. Sally, once a registered nurse, ended up as one of the thousands upon thousands of victims of society’s darkened tunnel of economic downfall, a tunnel with no light at its end. Though she had lost her job and her husband, she fought to maintain her dignity by helping those physically sickened by their lives upon the streets, assisting in any way she could.
Gerry and his Pacemaker, as he was referred to due to the electronic gadget he proudly bore for his heart condition, sat next to Sally in the crowded solitude of the makeshift dining hall. The two conversed on life, death, and the refreshingly delightful flavor of their hot bowl of soup.
“So,” Mary questioned Bill and Joey, “you think we are worse off or better off than most folks?”
“I ain't never gave it much thought,” replied Joey. “I've lived on the streets since I was just a kid. It has its perks.”
“Perks?” doubted Bill. “What street have you been livin' on?”
“What kind of perks, Joey?” Mary inquired.
“You know,” Joey took another sip of soup before he continued, “we have okay weather in these parts, places to call home, food to eat most of the time, and none of the hassles like regular folks gots.”
Mary and Bill prodded their friend for more, “Regular folks?”
“Yes, regular folks. See that fellow over there? “Joey pointed carefully, so as not to be seen, “The one sitting two folks down from Nurse Sally. He used to be a businessman, had a store and everything. Just like Nurse Sally, he lost it all, and he's gettin' pretty old now to boot.”
Mary reflected upon her friend’s words for a moment and replied, “I get it. They lost it all and we don't know what lost is 'cause we ain't never had much of nothin'.”
“That's about it,” Joey agreed.
“But all the stuff these regular folks had and lost, it really was nothing,” proclaimed Mary. “Nothing worth frettin' over, that is.”
“Treasures on earth,” Joey blurted.
“Treasures on earth. I heard the man from the mission here talk about it once, the night we had all of that big fish for dinner.”
“Mission night?” Mary asked. “The sturgeon?”
“Yeah, that’s it, Mission Night, sturgeon,” Joey affirmed. “The man gave a talk that night about what life is really about.”
Bill interjected, “I sort of remember that night. But, it’s hard for me to remember all the words all of the do-gooders say all of the time.”
“I only remember the words of the ones who really care,” Mary added.
“If they don't care,” Joey stated, “then the words are as shallow as a grave in the forest.”
“I think that only God can care sometimes. After all, we are all only human. We can’t always care about everyone,” Mary commented, as she reached for another roll to dip in her soup.
“There's more soup, folks,” Shouted the soup-spoon man at the front of the hall. “More soup!”