Today I told a four year old child that there was no more food so he couldn't have lunch. Then I watched him cry.
I was ten minutes from my house.
One of the outreach missions of our church is called Southgate Lunches. In the summer, various groups take a day or two and deliver sack lunches to kids at Southgate Village Apartments who otherwise wouldn't have lunch. I assume these kids gets free breakfasts and lunches at school, but in the summer there just isn't enough money for the two extra meals per day per kid. Our church also collects breakfast cereal to deliver to these kids.
This week, our Sunday school class was assigned three days: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. There was some debate over whether we needed 100 or 120 lunches, and we chose to go ahead and make 300 for the three days. Monday night, we met at the church and assembly-lined ham and cheese sandwiches, chips, fruit snacks, and juice boxes into paper bags, and then we loaded them into the church's giant refrigerator.
Yesterday, a few members from our class delivered the lunches, and I signed up to help today (Wednesday) and tomorrow. One of yesterday's volunteers told me that they used all 100 lunches they took, but there were no extra. So I decided to take 120, but leave 20 in the car to use today if necessary, but keep until tomorrow if not necessary.
The boys and I loaded up 5 boxes of lunches and headed to Southgate. When we arrived at 12:10, there were more kids in line at the distribution table than I could count. There were so many that I thought I was late, but the coordinator who met me there (Bonnie) assured me that the delivery time was, in fact, 12:15. Trey came on his lunch break to help, too, so he unloaded lunches from the car while I helped Bonnie.
Then we started passing out lunches. Bonnie asked each child their apartment number, and then the kids rattled off the names of the children in that apartment. Some had as many as five kids. We made sure each child was present to personally pick up the lunch, and Bonnie checked them off in her notebook as I handed kids sack lunches.
We had barely gotten started when a young woman walked up with her little boy who looked about four - Keaton's age. She asked for a form. I realized then that parents have to complete a registration form for their children to receive the lunches. I'm sure there are bureaucratic reasons for this, but I also know that's how we figure out if kids are allergic to certain foods and things like that. Anyway, Bonnie quickly handed her a form, and we continued passing out lunches.
The woman's little boy came around to the side of the distribution table, anxiously awaiting his delicious sack lunch. Bonnie calmly reminded him that his mom was filling out the form, and we had to make sure everyone on the list got a lunch first, but then he could have one. He sweetly said, "okay" and just stayed right there with his big brown eyes watching us pass lunch after lunch across the table.
As we neared the end of the lunches, Trey got my attention to tell me he only found five boxes in the car. Yes, I told him, I brought five boxes. That's when I realized there were 20 lunches in each box. I had only brought 100 lunches.
About fifteen kids in line didn't get a lunch today, and when they realized the food was gone they just turned to walk back home. Bonnie, knowing many of them by name, called out that we'd be ready for them tomorrow and we were sorry. The little boy waiting by the table turned to his mom, buried his face in her leg just like my kids do to me, and cried silently. She told him it was okay. There'd be more tomorrow.
We were ten minutes from my house.