Potluck in the Park is an organization that has been feeding the hungry every Sunday afternoon in downtown Portland, rain or shine, since 1991. Currently four to six hundred people in need show up on any given Sunday. On the second Sunday of every month, someone from West Hills Friends delivers about 200 pieces of fried chicken to Potluck in the Park. With a desire to serve God and witness the circumstances of others, I started taking chicken there in the summer of 2007.
One Sunday after delivering the chicken, I stayed to help serve at the bakery table, where guests were offered slices of bread and a selection of desserts. Each guest chose verbally or by pointing which dessert they wanted – one per person – and I, the plastic-gloved volunteer, placed their selection on their plate. The bakery table was a wonderful place to serve. Many of the guests were excited to see food they would really enjoy eating. Even if the selection was a bit stale or damaged, to be able to choose something that they actually wanted to eat seemed to be a great gift to them, and I was pleased to be able to give it.
One man in the line spied a lone Costco-sized almond poppy seed muffin and exclaimed, “That muffin! I would love to have that muffin!” I picked it up, but it did not stay in my hand for long. I dropped it. I dropped the muffin, and it landed topside down on the dirty cement next to my foot. I stared at the muffin for a good ten seconds, then picked it up and put it on the waste table behind me. I said, “I’m sorry. Can I interest you in something else?”
“Yes, of course,” he said – he was so nice. “How about those cookies?” I handed them to him, but he did not leave. He said, “May I have the muffin, too?”
Too quickly, I said, “But it fell on the ground!?!” I could feel the judgment squishing up my face, and I was so ashamed to have spoken those words. But he smiled and said, “Honey.” He said “honey” like my dad does – as if I was precious and he wanted to be gentle, not rob me of my innocence. But he also wanted that muffin. “Honey,” he said with a long pause, “I eat food out of the garbage.”
When I think of the love Jesus gives me, it is always accompanied by being fully known and accepted. Not loved in-spite-of, but loved because-of, loved completely because-of. That is how I felt when the man spoke his Truth to me. Even as he asked me to see beyond my own circumstances, his kind and respectful manner opened my mind and heart to his message. I felt that the real gift given that day was not a selection of sweets, but a hard Truth spoken with love.
— Summer L. Cox