Saturday, April 18, 2015
Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.
These words are often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, although there is no verification he said them. Francis had a heart for the poor and the pushed aside. However said them, they are an encouragement to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Recently I have been talking with someone who is doing the walking with some of those residents of downtown Belleville who are struggling due to poverty, mental health issues, and the loneliness that results.
Juliet DeWal is the proprietor of Sweet Escape Café, an establishment which I had frequented on a number of occasions before we chatted. Somehow we got on to the folk on the margins in the downtown, and I discovered that Juliet has what I would call a ministry to many of them. They seek refuge in the café, knowing that they will be treated with dignity and kindness. Juliet often treats them to coffee or food because of their financial circumstances.
Others have noticed what she is doing. Early in May Juliet will be recognized by the Canadian Mental Health Association in Belleville as a Community Champion. I am really pleased she will receive this accolade even though she does this out of the goodness of her heart and her convictions about "the least of these."
Not long ago my wife Ruth heard about a worthwhile initiative in Philadelphia. The owner of a restaurant invites patrons to sponsor slices of pizza for homeless persons in the area. If they choose ,they can pay for an extra slice when they come in, the owner puts a post-it on a board, and that chit can be redeemed by someone who needs the food.
In part because of Ruth's nudging and Juliet's willingness to share the opportunity, a board is now up in her café. Some of her regulars can now help out other regulars and it is already working. There are actually lots of Bridge St. folk who frequent Sweet Escape and we can all see this as an extension of the work our congregation does through our food ministries.
Juliet insists that it is a team of people who should be recipients of the recognition. A number of those who spend time at Sweet Escape look out to those who need their support and kindness.
If you are downtown looking for a coffee, or soup, or sandwich, stop in.