Persons, places and things: God provides at the Café

Barb Arland-Fye

Four parishioners from Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire arrived at Café on Vine eager to prepare and serve a meal for hungry people who might otherwise go without. A fifth parishioner would arrive shortly, the group explained to the supervisor. But there wouldn’t be enough volunteers to handle all of the tasks, which include washing dishes and cleaning up, the supervisor said. “You’d be here washing dishes all day. We’ll use paper plates.”
The parishioners expressed disappointment to each other about having to use paper plates, but then quickly moved on to food preparations: boiling hot dogs, slitting hotdog buns, separating bananas from bunches, arranging cookies on trays, spooning pasta into pans, opening bags of potato chips and pouring beverages.
Before the volunteers became immersed in preparations, two other people arrived separately at the café, like heaven-sent angels, offering to volunteer if needed. Of course, the supervisor said with relief. Their unexpected participation meant the café’s guests could be served meals on everyday plates and beverages in glasses.
One of the angels serves in the military on Arsenal Island in Rock Island, Ill., but his home is in Georgia. Since he was away from his family, he chose to share part of his weekend helping others in need. The other angel, a woman, stopped by because she hoped to see someone she was concerned about. All seven volunteers settled into their roles. The military man asked if he could serve at the door, greeting guests.
At noon, the guests began arriving for lunch; several young children were among the diners. Some guests asked for hotdogs without buns; some didn’t want bananas; others didn’t want pasta salad. Nearly all of them expressed appreciation for the meal. They may lack many things in life, but gratitude didn’t appear to be in short supply.
One parishioner who has served numerous times at Café on Vine volunteered to bus tables and keep busy in the dining room. She said she enjoys being in the dining room with the guests, sitting down, breaking bread together and chatting. It enriches her life.
Lunch ended at 1 p.m., and the volunteers made short order of cleaning up. Leftovers were covered and placed in the refrigerator; dishes were washed, dried and put away well before 2 p.m.
Like many parishes, Our Lady of the River takes turns purchasing, preparing and serving food at Café on Vine on a regular schedule, one Saturday afternoon every other month. Some of the parishioners have volunteered so frequently that they know the routine, the rhythm of the place.
But as it turns out, every experience at Café on Vine is unique and provides an opportunity to appreciate God’s blessings on those with abundance and those without.
Matthew’s Gospel advises us to “store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroy, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Matt. 6:19)
Storing up treasures in heaven begins at a place like Café in Vine, where you come face to face with God.
Barb Arland-Fye

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