Monday, December 2, 2013

The Walking Dead line up for food in Lancaster CA

When I stepped out my front gate Saturday, I heard slippers scraping along the sidewalk, first from my right, then from another person on my left, then all around me, men walking the mental patient walk, all heading in the same direction. Psychiatric medicine makes a person walk in a shuffle, somehow makes their feet not quite come off the ground. So I realized I was surrounded by mental patients, all walking by me with that slip slip slip sound, their eyes staring straight ahead. With their disheveled faces and clothes, I'm thinking I'm living in a real life Walking Dead!  And somehow they don't see me!

A whole population of homeless people sleep in the bushes and alleys in the town I moved to last June. Now they were converging on the public library where, I learned, on the last Saturday each month a truck pulls up and hands out sack lunches.

The men shuffled up and formed a line, sort of, around the “Ministry” truck, pushing and shoving to get ahead, but pushing very meekly.

I leaned against a wall and watched as these humans then stepped to the side to open their sacks and find a piece of fried chicken and a few extras. You didn't see joy and gratitude on their faces, you saw resignation. They were so hungry, one piece of chicken and a portion of pudding was not really going to fill much of the dent in their stomachs. A man who tried to get a second bag for his pregnant companion was told to wait until everyone who was hungry had gotten fed.

“We only got 150 this month, usually we have 250, so you'll have to wait and see first that everyone gets at least one bag,” repeated the minister, sounding a little too stressed to be what I would call prayerful, but at the same time, the men kept shuffling back in line for seconds anyway.

Several children ran up ahead of their mothers, but when they opened the sacks, they too had a look of disappointment. And I can understand. I mean, they've been hungry for hours, they finally get the bag of food they've been waiting for, and it's really not very much. They're grateful, they say thank you, they participate in whatever prayer the minister and the females helping him request of them, and they eat the piece of chicken with relish. But it's so not enough, so not enough.

The Christians call out to me, “Do you want a bag of food?” I say, no thank you, I don't need any help, not this month anyway.
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