I was down in Anacostia this morning, just before sunrise. The streets were pretty barren, save for one block on which one of the many area churches sat. This church provided free breakfast on Saturdays, though it had not yet opened. The line of people on the block was too long to see how many people were actually in it.
Once past that street, there were no people anywhere until I got to Emmanuel Baptist Church, one of our newest partners. Emmanuel Baptist was holding its holiday food distribution this morning, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Next Saturday, the 28th, we are having our second open distribution in their parking lot, so I agreed to bring down flyers today so they could include them in the holiday food bags. I was told by one of the deacons to be there by 9:00 a.m. He said one woman may be there earlier – perhaps as early as 7:00 to start setting up.
When I walked into the church at 7:15, there were about 30 people organizing, packing, and sorting bags. The woman at the door looked at me and said, “we have been here since 3:00 a.m. and we were waiting for you to bring those flyers.”
A decade ago, I spent most of my weekends in Anacostia, being put in my place like this with almost every visit, but enjoying the lack of facade and the deep sense of humanity one feels in these communities. The paradoxical lack of humanity is not lost on one, either.
In the church this morning – sorting and organizing bags – were people whom we had helped at last month’s distribution and who told me today that they had some pressing needs this season. Yet they were all taking care of one another, ensuring that their neighbors got as much food as possible. We will build a strong partnership here, that is for sure, and our education programs will start at the church this coming spring – early in the spring.
We all can do a great deal to help those breakfast lines to shrink and the number of food bags needed in the neighborhoods to go down. That would make the sunrise a much more beautiful sight in Anacostia.