The older, mostly-female crowd emerged from the dim passageway into the light of the courtyard of La Parroquia, the parish church of San Miguel de Allende. Some shuffled in, some walked with canes, some held onto the arms of friends and daughters. These deeply-weathered, elderly women and men are among those perched daily on steps or street sidewalks, selling small sacks of pepitas or gum or little items as a way to help their families survive.
Many had walked miles to be at the Wednesday lunch provided by So Others May Eat (S.O.M.E.) As they passed through the courtyard, already set up with colorful, cloth-covered tables, we and the other volunteers of the day greeted them.
Judy and I continued our job of chopping bagged romaine lettuce into shreds; it would garnish the soup. Several other volunteers lined the walkway, shaking hands, smiling, and welcoming the folks. Bypassing the tables, they filed into one of the rooms that opened onto the courtyard for prayers and songs.
Another person cut limes in half and set one in each blue plastic bowl along with a white spoon. The cooks carried large covered pots out to the work table. Lifting the wide lids, curious volunteers discovered a pasta soup in clear broth, Spanish rice, broccoli, mole sauce and stewed chicken feet.
A young man who had been over-seeing the operation came out of the kitchen and served up one plate. This was the example so we could see the quantity and the plate presentation.
We’d only heard about this luncheon the weekend before from our friend and former San Miguel neighbor, Pam. The owners of The Spa-Hotel Casa del Misionero, who sponsor this benefit lunch, have been doing it each Wednesday since 1989 with the help of volunteers. So, on our last full day in our beloved San Miguel, we’d walked over to La Parroquia to see how we could be of service.
While we stood ready to help when the serving began, more people came in and sat at the tables. They seemed to know where to land because, as Pam explained, there is a seating protocol that’s strictly followed. The eldest sit at the first table, which is one of several that are beneath a shady, roofed area; they are served first. The rest also sit according to age, with the youngest in the uncovered section at the end of the courtyard.
After the lengthy ceremony ended and everyone was finally seated, the group sang one or two more songs. Then, a blessing was said, signaling the volunteers into action filling cups with tea. Judy began ladling soup into bowls held by another volunteer who added the lettuce garnish. Two runners delivered and served the filled bowls to the eager diners.
I scrambled to ready more bowls and find extra spoons when it looked as though we were about to run out. An extra table had been set up to accommodate the overflow of people who needed to be fed.
High-pitched laughter and multiple conversations filled the air, creating a carefree atmosphere. What a difference nourishing food, moments of respite, and genuine caring make.
Hearts warmed, Judy and I both felt grateful for the opportunity to help even a little.
Giving back feels good. I would love to read your story of giving back. So, feel free to share it in the comments section, in an email, or on Facebook.
~ xoA ~