Yesterday, Nov. 23, my Aunt Mac O'Callaghan invited me to Project Hospitality's "Poor People's Dinner". Project Hospitality is an interfaith charitable organization on Staten Island that provides food, shelter, and other services for the poor and homeless on Staten Island, and assistance for those with HIV. Mac and her late husband Pearse and their 10 kids have been very involved with this organization for more than 20 years, and I raised some money for them this summer running Badwater.
In the spring I attended a luncheon for them at the Hilton on Staten Island, a very nice meal. Mac had invited me to this latest event several weeks ago and I accepted for the sake of the event, without really asking about the nature of the event, which was also to be held at the Hilton.
So I have a light lunch, go to Mac's house and ask about the event, and I'm glad I did. Otherwise I'd be embarrassed asking, where's the main course?
The Poor People's Dinner is a fund-raising dinner where instead of a fancy several-course meal, what is served is a tasty but simple vegetable soup, bread (no butter) and water, a typical "poor person's meal." This event has been a tradition for 10 years on the Monday before Thanksgiving, as we prepare to stuff ourselves bloated.
I realize Mac had told me about this event before, but attending it, and hearing the speakers, makes me give it a little more thought. While one cousin who sat with us (who shall remain nameless) sneaked some cookies in from the front desk, and one attendee was seen bringing in a glass of wine from the bar (a faux pas), it reminded me of the Catholic fasting during Lent. In fact, many religions have some tradition of fasting, which may have different roots but all serve to put us in mind of more important things. And what a great time to be thinking of fasting, to help us think about those for whom soup and bread is a feast, and for whom an apartment or house of their own is a far-off dream. Perhaps we can be moved to provide some sort of assistance for such people, while at the same time acknowledging the waste in our own lives - the waste not only of food, but of time and energy spent on petty things and misguided priorities. Maybe we can catch ourselves before we go overboard for the holidays.