A Garden of Emotions
By Carol H., Mercy Associate
After watching and being touched by the Mercy Medical Van coming each week to bring care to our suffering homeless, the Summer Lunch Program was started. As a retired teacher, I knew many children did not get a lunch during the summer months. So, for the first summer, together the Ministries United in Service and Training (MUST) staff in Atlanta packed 20 lunch bags and I delivered them each weekday to a housing project. The next year, churches and community began to send sacked lunches to our program. Now, after many summers of the program, MUST volunteers and staff prepare and deliver 189,678 sack lunches to children in low-income location.
The Mercy sisters also started the clinic at MUST. Daily, as I pray from my Mercy Prayer Book before I go out to deliver lunches, I give thanks for the example the Mercy sisters give as they bring love and hope to the suffering poor.
Often, soon after my daily delivery, I think about the experience and write a short reflection over it. The following is one of my reflections…..
On one of my stops carrying lunches to the children in our community, there is a tall, old tree. It grows in a space that I think of as a garden—a garden filled with rusty, broken cans, decaying dwellings; a garden that makes me thankful for the beauty of small blossoms of flowers blooming in clay pots placed on broken steps; a garden that also holds the blossoms of emotions and feelings. I also think of it as place for children to express joy as they receive from MUST the gifts of food prepared by a compassionate community of volunteers. The tree is a place for their parents to sit in the shade of the branches as they reflect over their past and hope for the future of their children. It is a garden that demands no certain language as words mingle easily. Under its old limbs polished by the summer winds, the children share their lives.
- A little boy looks quickly into his lunch sack and exclaims: “Wow, a juice box; I will drink half now and save the rest to share with my father when he comes home from work”
- A mother, who must walk three blocks to use a pay phone to hear from her dying mother, responds with tears in her eyes: “These lunches let us know that somebody cares about out children”
- A teenage girl who keeps four small children while their parents are at work whispers to me, “Thank you for listening and for asking every day how I am,” as one by one by one the children slip dandelions into my hands
- A six-year old little girl says: “I shared my lunch with my best friend who broke her foot; we halved everything in the sack and that lunch tasted better than any lunch I’ve had all summer”
In humility under the tree, I sat with two battered women to inquire about their needs. As I got up to leave, one of the women reached for my hand and said, “when you come, you always bring respect and the books; oh please, keep bringing both, especially the books.” Long after the sandwiches are gone the books continue to feed the children.
I watched as young boys, after receiving their lunches, ran to help an elderly man throw his heavy bag of trash into a dumpster just outside his bedroom window. Every day I see seeds of compassion. A young boy on his bike came one day to ask me if I could help him carry four milk jugs of water to a family whose water had been turned off.
Often, I have wondered if loving hands planted the tree intentionally or if it came to birth long ago by the careless dropping of a bird hurrying to its nest to feed it young. Now, under this old tree, young children are fed. In the early morning, a healing silence is broken by the squeals of children running to receive sacks filled with nourishment and love. And near its roots, a child sits reading a book allowing seeds of hope to take root as the old tree lifts its tall branches heavenward in search of the sun.