My first trip to a “soup kitchen”.

Other than it’s obviously a church, there were no signs to let anyone know there’s a lunch program, nor is there any way to know where to enter the church. Luckily I found an open door and a kindly gentleman who directed me downstairs. The only sign I saw was “Men’s Room Closed”.

Entering a large auditorium-like room, there was a serving area at one end, folding tables and chairs throughout the centre of the room, and a very long line of people all around the perimeter of the room, obviously the line-up waiting to be served. This being my very first visit to a “soup kitchen” in my sixty years on the planet,  I came with many preconceived ideas of the types of people I expected to be lining up for a free meal. I certainly knew why I was here. Pretty Simple. I had no food and no
money. I expected everyone else in line would be in a similar situation. Some of those in line bore the obvious signs of poverty and living on the street. They had all their worldly possessions stuffed into well-worn backpacks.  They didn’t smell very good and personal hygiene had not been a priority for them for quite a while. This I expected, but the others?

There were young people, wearing the latest fashions and talking on their iPhones. There were neatly attired business people, quite obviously on their lunch break, skipping their usual two-martini lunch, taking advantage of a free meal meant for the disadvantaged in our society. There were well-coiffed women, with perfect hair and perfect nails. The most outrageous? People carrying designer shopping bags full of their recent purchases. They can afford to shop, but not to eat?

None of these leeches probably have a single pang of guilt at what they are doing. That the wonderful, kind, generous folks working so hard to prepare and serve these meals don’t even raise an eyebrow at these people who clearly don’t need it, is a tribute to their kind spirit. I should mention that all of the volunteers are well over sixty. Says a lot about our society. Where are the younger ones volunteering to give back? Probably out shopping or at the beach.

None of this detracted from the delicious meal I was so fortunate to enjoy – choice of hot, tasty soup, egg or tuna sandwiches, along with a treat, Timbits or half a do-nut. And endless coffee, tea and water.

For some this may well be their only meal of the day. It would be nice if some caring grocery chain would donate things like fruit, juice and milk. As nourishing as the meal was, it doesn’t exactly cover the four food groups.

London is a tough town to find work in. Even though I have a lifetime of experience to offer, not one person has responded to the hundreds of resumes I’ve submitted.
I am not on assistance by choice, because it does not possibly provide enough to survive on, especially when housing here is so expensive. I just want desperately to work.

If you are a local grocer and have anything to donate please contact the kind folks at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

If you are one of those otherwise well-off people standing in line for a free meal, think twice about who the meal is meant for and don’t abuse the generosity of these kind people who give their time willingly to lend a much-needed helping hand to those of us who really need it.

If you want an all too vivid snapshot of the London economy, drop by the Ontario Works office some afternoon. It’s beyond crazy and the system is overwhelmed. Did you know that there are over a hundred case workers at this office? Apparently there are some eight thousand people on assistance in London. And news reports
that our economy is on the rebound certainly don’t apply to London.

Look around your city. You’ll see trash everywhere. Thousands of cigarette butts. Graffiti all over town. Weeds everywhere. Broken public washrooms. The City is already paying for people on assistance. Why not put able bodied people to work for living wages, cleaning up our City and getting these people off welfare? London is not exactly a tourism hub and does a poor job of attracting new business to the City. Maybe the Forest City would do better as the Clean City?

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