BRUTAL SUMMER AFTERNOON IN LAS VEGAS,
Sun hammering us on an anvil of heat, forging
Brains long bent by alcohol, addiction.
Minds that once schemed now searching
For a meal behind Salvation Army’s shield,
Under the proud red banner, wind-snapped.
The red symbolizes the blood of sacrifice.
The yellow gold stands for the spirit.
And the blue? Purity of the Big Man.
He’s somehow everywhere and nowhere
Here on Owens Avenue, where 200 men,
Women and even children queue up.
Food ready, with no holiday bell ringing,
The steam-table chefs start to dollop,
Filling each box in every plastic tray.
No complaints, no cutting or butting.
Just friendly chatter, salutations, inquiries.
More and more sunburned faces enter.
They arrive in various shapes and sizes,
Races and ethnicities, many ambulating
While some crutch-stagger and wheel, a true
Cosmopolitan gathering of hard-up souls
Who let life’s hardships get on top of them
And haven’t quite figured how to break free.
One guy wears a stained payday-loan shirt,
A walking 1-800 ad for quick, easy money.
Another dude’s lacerated eyes are bandaged,
Yet he manages to discern—or smell?—pasta.
“Extra spaghetti, no beans, maybe?” he says.
Not allowed, but the meal-dishers let it slide.
They’re not here to enforce rules, but to learn
Food-service techniques. They hope to soon
Graduate from the Army’s culinary training
Program and secure work in a restaurant,
A for-profit and non-charitable eatery where
Folks pay with money instead of coupons.
But it’s obvious from the trainees’ expressions,
Which move from playful to sober, that they’ve
Already accomplished what the greatest among us
Often fail to do. In this nondescript hall, where
Everyone’s fed and given a seat at the table of
Fellowship, a recipe for meeting the needs of others
Is measured out daily. Pinch of sacrifice. Dash of spirit.
Smidgen of purity. A little here goes a long way.
The Salvation Army Southern Nevada offers free meals to the homeless 2:45 p.m. daily at 35 W. Owens Avenue in North Las Vegas. For more information, click here.
Previously published in diamondcake. Updated by smallTALK. Archived for The Salvation Army Southern Nevada.