Joy and Bitterness
On a cold morning a cup of hot coffee goes down pretty easy. The line for coffee went through the living room and dining room back to the old fireplace at Manna House. There, Mike sat at a table serving coffee, greeting guests as he handed each a hot cup of coffee.
Men and women patiently waited their turn. And then they briefly waited again to get creamer and sugar as those before them poured in the amount they wanted in their coffee before stirring with a spoon until they had just the right consistency.
This morning’s coffee line never let up for the first hour. People were coming back for seconds and thirds and even fourths. Clyde and Lucy made sure there was always enough creamer and sugar on the tables.
Meanwhile Kathleen called people for showers and for “socks and hygiene.” Those serving in the clothing room sought that delicate balance between warm welcome and keeping the momentum needed to serve everyone in a timely manner. It was not long before laundry was piling up from those who had showered and Jenny began her work in the laundry room.
Then the donations started coming in. The first Thursday of the month donation of sack lunches arrived. A wonderful donation of red string backpacks filled with goodies like gloves, socks, deodorant and more followed! Manna House tries to live up to its name and does not hoard the “manna” that comes as a gift from God (and good people). So Edie and Lilly joined with Ashley and others to get all of this “manna” distributed to our guests. Soon the rooms were filled with people enjoying snacks and other gifts. Christmas joy had arrived early.
But the bitterness of life on the streets always lurks about. A guest began to tell me about his encounter with a police officer outside of the Rite Aid store on Union Avenue. The guest said he was just sitting outside the store not bothering anyone when this cop drove up.
“He yelled at me, ‘Hey nigger, what you doing? You can’t be here.’”
“He said that?” I asked.
“Yes he did. And I said, ‘You can’t call me that and I ain’t doing nothing. Then he came at me and tried to handcuff me. I kicked at him, but he got me cuffed. A person from the store who was standing there said to the cop, ‘I got your badge and car number. I heard what you said and I see what you’re doing. I’m watching you.’”
“What did the cop say?”
“He said, ‘Watch all you want. I don’t care.’”
The guest spent the night in the county jail at 201 Poplar. The next morning he went to court.
“I told the judge what happened, what the cop said. The judge threw out the charges. And then he told the cop he was in the wrong.”
“That’s unbelievable,” I said.
“Yup. And you know where I learned I didn’t have to take that from a cop?”
“Where?” I asked.
“Right here at Manna House and from H.O.P.E’s ‘Know Your Rights’ booklet.”
The joy was back.