Wednesday, April 23, 2014
About the Church Dinners and Free Meals
The dinners at the one church are an outreach, and of course, meant to draw attention and members. However, the church ostensibly started the dinners on each Thursday night as a way to do something good for the community. They advertised the dinner for their own church members and anyone else who wanted to come: mothers who were too tired to cook because of a hard day, anyone who had been Christmas shopping and wanted a meal that was not fast food and did not have time to cook; those alone or lonely who needed a bit of fellowship; people who were poor and really needed food; people who had company and wanted a reprieve from the kitchen...you get it.
The workers explained that they were there to serve the food, drinks, and seconds. We did not have to go get anything. They would be waiters.
At first, the meals were really good, not spectacular. Then, over the months the workers just threw out a twice-heated hotdog, all shriveled and hard from the trip through the microwave, a cookie or two, and a tiny bag of chips. They were rude and just stood in a huddle with frowns, trying not to look at us. No, this was the impression of many people. As I struggled to my feet and hobbled to the table up front for more tea, they turned their heads away from me.
Finally, I decided that driving two miles for that kind of food and attitude was demoralizing. Plus, the food had no redeeming nutritional value so that I could ignore attitudes. When we did not have hotdogs, we had fish or chicken patties that tasted nothing like fish or chicken. Or, we had shriveled up tvp patties that were masquerading as hamburgers. I quit going. So did most people. The very poorest people returned each week.
Then, they announced a new day, new time, and new and better menus. The hour was moved up thirty minutes; the day was changed to Wednesdays so members would not be attending Wed night Bible study one night and cooking and serving the next night. Plus, they figured more church members would attend the dinner. They did. Before, they had five teams that rotated through the weeks, now they have three.
The people I sat with before were just more old women like me who were okay, but they were jealous and gossipy and particularly disliked me. When people sit at a table week after week, things are discussed. They asked me where I worked/had worked. Then, when they learned I had an education, things changed. One could not read above a second grade level; another just learned to write her name, one who is 80+, just got her first job ever through a program and had never finished hs. Another woman and I had a lot in common, so we talked and laughed, but never left anyone out. "Just learned to write her name" thought this woman was her best friend and I was an interloper.
Two couples and I finally filled that table and the others sat elsewhere, leaving two spaces for others. One husband committed suicide. The woman who just learned to write her name let me come three weeks in a row and ask about my friend and the friend's husband for two weeks, not telling me what happened as the guy lay dying from an attempted suicide and then was buried. His wife had asked this woman to tell me several times what happened and my friend was hurt that I never contacted her. See the spitefulness? The wife in the other couple broke her hip and ended up in a nursing home--forever.
So, now that table of crazy women tells everyone I am taking the guy away from his wife. He is drop-dead gorgeous, but I am totally not interested in anything but friendship. You really know I have affairs with married men and meet them at church dinners! That's my style, yessiree.
He has health issues as does everyone there. So, he got sick of driving about 10 miles each way to this fiasco called a dinner and made him queasy. When people asked why we did not come and said they missed all of us, we cited our health as why we did not come eat and waste our time and gas. I told at last of the bullying where I was the target, at the church and in the community. (No, haven't related all that.) That is when the church members and the preacher, having heard about the poor quality of food and other reasons people quit coming, had a meeting about the quality of the food and service. I think less than one dozen came to eat toward the end.
Yes, some very poor people come to the dinner. Wednesday night, I sat with the man whose wife is in the nursing home, a man whose wife died one year ago, and the minister. Sometimes, exbf goes with me so I won't have to cook dinner. His lunch that day is always a salad or other vegetables and meat so he will have one good meal if the dinner is not so hot.
Yes, I mostly sit with men. There are a few church women who sit with me some nights, ones I have known for years. The women who were the bullies and critics do not come near me because I have had a word with the church and each of them in private. I am not one to verbally fight or make a scene. It takes a lot of pushing me for me to even approach the offenders or complain. So far, I tackled three and told them to stop. The rest now leave me alone. Okay, it is more like a snub, but that does not offend me at all.
They were pointing and laughing at me, calling me names, and one night covered all the places and screamed for other women to hurry up, "She's coming." They were frantically urging women who were sitting at other tables to move so I could not sit down. It was like a scene from a school bus where people do not allow a person to sit down. After that night, I sat alone by choice. If I had to do that for peace, so be it. A friend of mine, a guy, sat with them and asked who I was. They told him the things I had heard they said. He related to me, "Mainly that you are always causing trouble and chasing the woman who just learned to spell her name, trying to hit her. You are having an affair with some man whose wife has cp and in a nursing home. "
Besides, I heard the woman who just learned to write her name yelling and fist-pumping that they had the best table when two toothless guys sat with her table and I sat alone. There were fist pumps all around that table as she encouraged the group and looked triumphantly at me. I don't try to sit with men because I sit and they come sit with me for some good conversation and laughter. One, with wife in nursing home has these women beg him to come and sit at their table said that beyond talk about the weather, they have nothing in common and when he starts a conversation about anything, they just look at him or talk about something else.
Oh, I forgot about the 80+ year older woman. I offered her some eggs back when I had four hens. She reluctantly said she would take them. I gave them to her the next week and received no "thank you." Whatever. These people don't have many manners. Two weeks after I gave the eggs to her, I asked her if she wanted some more. She turned up her nose and made a sour face and said my eggs did not taste right, there was something wrong with them, that her neighbor gave her good eggs. !!! I turned away and never spoke another word to the woman. Okay, so she never looks at me and walks away if I am near. If she is going to avoid me, I will just not speak...lol.
At any rate, the dinner is not just for the poor or hungry even though there are the desperately poor who still manage to smoke, go to movies, and admit to drinking every weekend. I suppose background makes a difference in priorities. I do see them smoking outside and smell it on their clothing. I have heard their conversations about going to movies and buying video games. Aren't those games sort of expensive?
Now, for the once-a-month Tuesday lunch. It is always delicious and nutritious, always a salad. We stand in line inside the church and go through to a window where our preferences are plated for us. We pick up our tea and head to the tables where dessert is behind the plates. Ha, get there early and swap desserts is the name of that game.
The people who attend this lunch are policemen, detectives, vendors from the farmer's market in the summer, office workers, social workers, clients (battered women) of those social workers, politicians before voting times, retired professionals, psychologist friend, business owners, and very few really poor people. It is an entirely different atmosphere with four times the number in attendance. There is a group of people from the church who play stringed instruments and sing church songs and sound like Peter, Paul, and Mary.
I forgot to say that this church has three built-in gas grills on the outside of the dining hall. Some days, we have grilled whole chicken breasts!
I have never had a problem with anyone there. Well, this long-time, well-heeled, retired friend kept asking me to get up and leave the table where we both landed because she had friends show up and wanted them to sit with her. I was in the middle of my meal and sitting with someone. I pointed out the table next to me and said there was plenty of room over there for her friends. "I am happy right here and am in the middle of my meal." I also laughed and asked her if I were not a friend. She is sooo nice to me now and just sits somewhere else and two of the three guys from the Wednesday dinner sit with me when they are present. Then, there are strangers who sit there with me. Or, other random friends who show up occasionally. I found out she is suffering from dementia, so I just am thankful I am of sound mind (I think)...knock on wood.
At both places, I usually bring home enough food for the girls to have two to seven meals. So, it is someplace to go and talk to others and a place for a free meal and hen meals. The company and conversation are more important than the food. Okay, maybe not?
Maybe Church #3
I can go to a church on Sunday night that requires listening to a sermon. No, thank you. I cannot be bribed...lol. Actually, I forget. I would try it once.
Plus, I can go to the Senior Center and play games and eat lunch for $1.25. The meals are pretty gross, lots of tvp and powdered mashed potatoes and no fresh vegetables. So far, there are fresh salads at both the other places. Plus, they want you there at 8 am to play chicken foot or listen to gospel singing until lunch. Nooo....
Now, you know. I don't go because I am hungry for food. I cannot meet elsewhere and talk with the friend whose wife is in the nursing home, also has CP and will never get out. We do talk over the phone, meet in passing at the grocery. There is too much talk now about our relationship! Exbf never talks during meals out or at my house or even when he goes to the two meals I attend at the churches. I do enjoy conversation and laughter with a meal, don't I slugmama?
If I were gainfully employed or had plenty of money, I would still go to these dinners.
Definitely NOT Church #5
There is a church two blocks from me that advertised on a crude cardboard sign a once each week "Soup Kitchen." Mostly, the poor went there. The workers poured giant cans of soup into several electric cauldrons on wheels, the long vats for food. There were regular saltines and nasty cookies plus bottled water and sweet tea. I went there maybe a dozen times. Oh, at first, they had spaghetti every week along with one vat of canned chicken noodle soup. When they quit having spaghetti, I quit going. Only the very poor went there, no problem except I had to try to follow the talk of mental patients. I can do that! Okay, canned soup was the real problem...lol.
For about six weeks, I picked up crackers, nasty cookies, and a bottle of water and went my way. When I figured out the spaghetti was not coming back, I never went back. They finally closed the doors for lack of attendance. Even the poorest of them could eat canned soup at home.
I tried to explain to a man of about thirty-years, one of the church members, what a "soup kitchen" was during the Depression. He was stumped and had never heard of it. I told him the sign turned people away, people who were older and had heard of soup kitchens, the last resort for the hungry who had no other options.
Once a year Church #5
There is another dinner where I do pay for a dinner that has a silent auction. The purpose of the dinner and auction is to raise money for their food bank. I do donate items to their silent auction as well as paying for the dinner. The first one I went to was a luau and so much fun, well worth six dollars and a 30-mile+ drive. The friend who runs it was shocked I had items to donate and assured me it was not necessary. It was all stuff that was newish and some things that were on the antique side. I was getting rid of it anyway!
So, that's the deal on church dinners. It is not because I am poor or need food. It is good food and free and I can meet friends there for a conversation and laughter. The three guys who sit with me at #1 all said it was not the food, it was something to do--fellowship. No, there are not three guys all the time. Who does not enjoy free and good food and friends new and old? Plus, my hens like the food I bring them.
So, I think some of you misunderstood, right? I don't go to eat free, solely. This is all part of improving my social life, seeing people! I have met one guy who seems to like me as much as I like him. We will see. Does your town have anything like these first two shindigs? Do you attend? Or, are the dinners strictly targeted toward the poor like the Soup Kitchen was?