The first Sunday of every month is food collection Sunday for Saint Vincent de Paul. I am not a saint, and I am not a morning person either. As usual, I barely make it to my 10:40 am shift, standing in front of the gym, across from the church entrance. Slouched against the wall, I am still yawning. At least it is warm enough.
Everyone passes my spot on their way to mass. Once I wake up a little, I love to watch the parade of humanity. This is a community. This is a slice of life.
People chatter in different languages—English of course, but also lots of Spanish and Tagalog, even some French.
Some are wearing suits and shiny shoes, church dresses and even a few hats. Others are all about sweatshirts and bed head.
A woman dressed in beautiful Indian garb hurries by, clutching a rosary.
Families arrive with three or four or five children trailing behind the parents—twirling and dancing rather than walking; punching, pushing, or dawdling and daydreaming until a parental hand pulls them into a brisker pace.
Little boys come up to me to hand over boxes of cereal. They approach shyly, then break into super hero positions to fly back to their mother who waits a few feet away.
A pair of ladies approach, arm in arm, with heads together. They appear to be sharing juicy gossip. They look up, still laughing, and say good morning as they pass.
Friends stop to say hello and visit for a few minutes.
Just like clockwork, a sweet old gentleman pulls up and opens his trunk. It’s the same every time—I walk over and he hands me two tiny bags of canned goods-maybe three or four cans each. As I take them from his shaking hands, he says, “This one’s kind of heavy—you sure you got it?”
Father Harris nods a good morning on his way from the rectory to the church.
Many people drop off bags of canned goods. A few wince, throw their hands wide, and say, “Oops! Forgot about food collection today!”
An elderly lady waves from the farthest end of the parking lot. I head toward her car, but not fast enough to suit her, so she whistles sharply. “I’ve got two bags of groceries here,” she says, “But I’m not too steady on my feet.” I thank her and carry the food back to the collection area.
A man stops and stuffs a few dollar bills into the collection box. His hands are rough from manual labor. He grins and ducks his head when I thank him.
Mass is starting, but there are always a few late arrivals who leave their donations as they scurry past toward the now closing doors of the church.