Our Sunday School Class went down to the Rescue Mission the other night. It wasn't at all like I expected. First of all, the people looked a lot like us. They didn't look poor and shabby. They were mostly lounging around outside, talking. The section of the city didn't look miserable. There were well-dressed people and theaters and amusements. People were happy and laughing.
And there were very few in the Mission. Only the Mission staff and a few others were just ready to eat a hearty meal when we arrived. They welcomed us warmly and sat us down to eat with them. Afterward there would be a service for those who were there.
I mused that the people outside looked quite content and healthy. The Mission staff assured us that these people were really poor and actually starving. As I thought about it they did seem rather thin and pale.
"Do they know they are starving?" I asked.
"Well, some do and some don't," was the answer.
"If some know they are starving, why don't they come in and eat?" I asked. "The food is certainly good and healthy."
"Well, for various reasons. Some are so busy with their entertainments and their friends, that they are distracted from eating. Others are getting food substitutes of various sorts and haven't yet realized that the substitutes aren't adequate. Others are getting hungry, but they see us as intolerant bigots and they don't want to associate with us. Some don't like the facility. It isn't the latest fashion, as you can see. And then some are put off by the common cookware and dishes we use. Even though they are clean, these people are used to the very best and it offends them to think about eating off something less than crystal. And most don't like meat and potatoes; they have expensive and exotic tastes."
"My, it seems these people aren't willing to give up very much to keep from perishing," I said.
"Well, that's true," came the reply, "and we're trying our best to upgrade our facilities and our foods so that we can appeal to those who live in this area."
"Are there any other Missions around here?" I asked.
"Oh, yes. There are at least a dozen in this section of the city."
"How are they faring at feeding starving people?" I asked.
"Well, it varies. Many are trying new approaches. One is bringing in top name entertainers to attract the theater going crowd. Another has installed a wall-to-wall video system. A third one has gone to a much higher ratio of exotic desserts and less meat and potatoes to appeal to the more gourmet crowd. The fourth one has built a beautiful facility that attracts many people. It's hard to compete with the other Missions in the area."
"Well," I said, "this is certainly different from what I thought it would be like to feed starving people." "Are there other areas of the city where people are starving?"
"Oh, yes. This is one of the better sections of the city. In most of the city, people are much worse off. Oh, I mean, they're starving just like these people, but they aren't wealthy. They don't have the entertainments and the substitutes and distractions like these people."
"Are there lots of Rescue Missions in these other parts of the city?"
"Oh, no. Hardly any. Why in some parts of the city, there isn't any rescue mission. The people have no food at all. Why, it's said, that if anyone would show up there with just scraps of food, they would be mobbed for it."
"And are Rescue Missions being set up in these areas too?"
"No, hardly anyone is interested. And besides, there are still lots of starving people right here."