At the moment of 5pm on a Sunday night, the American Coalition of United Beliefs begins to arrive in order to set up their weekly dinner at the ARCH. It's a cool and brisk spring night where the ARCH daily lottery is held every night at 6pm for the fortunate ones who will attain a bed that night as serving dinner always begins before the lottery. The usual setup is a practical method of using portable white tables, environmentally friendly paper plates, plastic forks, spoons, and cups. The clients are eager to receive the usual good, practical dinner, rather than the usual mixed gumbo of chicken and pork that is served everyday right next door at the Salvation Army.
The dinner brings an array of different individuals struggling with their own beliefs and faith. But, on this night, the usual servers had had a death in the Coalition the prior week. All of them are grieving for the loss of their charismatic, faith-driven leader who died from a senseless killing, and the somber tone is reflected in their voices as they hardly uttered a word on the anticipated trip in the van on the way over to the weekly, life-altering dinner. But, it is a weekly tradition that can never be missed as the ARCH clients are depending on it. And, the location-challenged clients tend to fill themselves with meals throughout the day as they question where their next meal is coming from.
“Are all of you ready to serve dinner again?” asks Benjamin “It's time to put on our ‘game-faces,’ despite what has happened this past week,” he says in a soft tone.
“Yes,” all of the volunteers reply.
“But, it didn't have to happen to the greatest of all of us as I find it horrible that evil things happen to good people.” Sarah blared out loud with severe anguish. “I realize that no one is immune to the trials of life, but it is so difficult when our leader was a guiding light!”
“Honey, it will be alright. He would have wished that we go on without him.” says Hope. “I struggle with my faith everyday when getting out of bed, but life must go on.”
The van pulls up to partially-littered curb on the street next to the transitional shelter. There is a line already formed on the side of the building as the anticipation of the clients of this dinner has been on their eager minds for the last hour. It is never a dinner where steaks, wine and cheese, and cakes are served, but a practical dinner of hot dogs, chips, and punch. And, on its best days, maybe fajitas, rice, ranch-style beans, and bottled water.
But, anything beats the usual bland-filled gumbo at the Salvation Army where nearly expired hard-crusted bread, two-day-old doughnuts, and warm, jugged water is served every day. A meal for the location-challenged is a faith-driven reverence and special meal to the clients, who just like the mentally ill are excited when a meal is served in the psychiatric ward at the local hospitals.
Yet, tonight's dinner “breaks bread” more than any night as something is in the cool, brisk spring air. It's a gentle, light-winded breeze that has a sense of urgency in it. Something is in the eye-popping dark shadows of the night as the new moon's light is illuminating the sky above.
“Man, I can't wait until I get some food in my belly,” one client impatiently says. “I wish they’d hurry up because the grub is calling me,” he laughs.
“For sure, for sure!” another client chants.
The squeaking of the frequently used legs of the white, plastics tables indicate that it's almost dinner time in the make-shift outside kitchen as the guiding echoes are ringing throughout the spring air. But, it's the usual excitement from the clients as they begin to line up in a straight-bowed line.
“Are the hog dogs still warm?” Benjamin asks. “It was a 30 minute ride from up north.”
“They are warm as can be.” Peter replies. “I hope they are happy.” He says with a concerned look on his face.
“Yes they will be, although they hardly show it.” And a look of confidence came about on Belinda's face. “I have a good feeling about tonight.”
As everyone in the Coalition begins to set up, the ringing plastic tables and aluminum pans echo into the night as the new leader returns to the 3 year-old Ford Econoline Gray Van to close all of the doors. But, he remembers the words of hope mentioned before in the prior conversation.
“Lord, help us tonight as our faith is low.” Benjamin whispers. “Help me personally as I'm struggling to live according to your will.”
“Help me, help me!”