My new favorite recipient organization calls itself Free Hot Soup. It started four years ago when a few friends decided to take some hot food and warm clothes to the people living outside during a week of severe ice storms. It wasn't a charity. It wasn't a handout. It was people gathering together, talking about how freakin' cold it was out there, eating together, and sharing what they had. It was natural. It was kind. It was human.
Now, four winters later, that group of friends has grown. Free hot meals are served in downtown Portland four or five nights a week. They've become a resource for people with nothing, people who would otherwise be eating out of garbage cans. People who depend on humanity's ability to overlook labels and mistakes and fear to notice them. And it's not just in Portland. There's a Vancouver group, a Gresham group, a mobile group that carries food into the camp areas. Other cities have hopped on board.
This isn't a religious group or a political group. It doesn't have a tax status or restaurant license or business structure. It is only, purely, relationships. It's people who recognize that those on the street are victims and they're all somebody's child, somebody's sister, somebody's dad. Sure, they may be drug addicts or alcoholics or even criminals, but what does that have to do with whether they eat or have a blanket? Our prisons provide more comfort than that. This is a group that recognizes the humanity in each of us, that interacts with police and local government and has a working relationship with them. That knows not only that young drug addict on the street, but also his mother, who can't thank them enough for looking out for her child who she doesn't know how to help. This is a group that knows hope is a critical part of our existence and that never gives up on anybody.
Free Hot Soup is my new source of volunteers, a network of generous souls who know where the hungry people are and who want to serve mankind -- all mankind, not just the well-dressed bits. As I get to know these people and expand my network of food donors, I see the world healing before my eyes. I see apathy set aside and possibilities open up. Businesses start to see that they CAN help the environment by keeping edible food out of the trash. Normal neighbors CAN make our food system more sustainable by picking up and delivering excess food. Volunteers CAN reignite our passion for dignity and human rights and a global community. And all those folks who've lost their way, made bad choices, or just fallen through the cracks -- all those folks CAN feel hope again.
A cup of soup and a blanket can change the world.
Susie Snortum is passionate about improving society's compassion for meeting basic human needs -- food, shelter, clean water, and dignity.