Another Record Falls at BSM

April 1, 2014

Last week, BSM set a record that as members of the BSM community, we should all be proud of, and as Americans and Philadelphians we should be ashamed of. On the last Thursday in March our faithful volunteers served 380 meals at our lunchtime Breaking Bread. That’s a new record for meals served. Also on that day, the second largest number of guests attended for a meal or the services we offer was 430. The highest number of guests to participate in our meals and/or our services is 458.

The fact that each of these record-breaking meals occurred on the last Thursday of the month was no accident. Our experience has taught us that for many of our guests, especially those receiving benefits such as SNAP (food stamps), and other benefits confront a financial gap during that final week of the month. For many of them it is a choice between buying food, paying for a prescription, or in some cases rent.

Let’s get to the shame part first, and then to the prouds. The reality that our numbers in terms of guests have been climbing steadily over the last two years is no fluke. The choices that all of us as citizens and neighbors are making in terms of confronting the issues of deep poverty and hunger are directly related to this ever-worsening crisis. BSM’s convening minister, Bill Golderer, calls this our Social Sin.

Now the proud part. What made this a remarkable day was how our volunteers – our meal servers, those who helped with the mail, and our personal care services – handled this number of guests with such gracious efficiency that all of those on staff were quite surprised to find out just how many guests they served. The dining room was calm. Everyone who came in after the meal began was seated after a brief wait. There were no lines. For the time that our guests were with us, they were received and served with all the dignity and respect they deserve.

At every meal we say that we could not possibly do this work of serving our guests with such radical hospitality without our volunteers. This could not have been truer than on the Thursday Breaking Bread where we served 380 meals in less than two hours.