Two children sit with cold, serious faces. One begins to speak, but then the other shakes her head, and says, “There are rules, Gracie. I call bologna.” The first girl hangs her head low, and with a resigned sigh collects the entire stack of cards in front of her. “Two aces,” says her sister, places a pair of cards on the table face down. Her sister interrupts: “Bologna!” Then they both laugh, and the game continues.
Behind them, a young mother reads to her child with the exaggerated reading voice children love, as a young boy gleefully cries, “Butter chicken?” before heading off in search of lunch. He veers into the hall, walking past a man talking about routers. “If you get a repeater we’ll be able to bounce the wi-fi into the rooms at the back,” he says to no one in particular. Behind him lies two steaming serving bowls, filled to the brim with butter chicken and saag, next to a pile of naan bread. A man dropping off a donation of breakfast bars points to the food and asks, “How’d we get this?” “A restaurant donated it to the police department, who in turn donated it to us,” a woman behind a desk explains. Outside, a pair of volunteers unload two trucks full of frozen food. A woman watches, smiles, and exclaims, "We'll be eating good today!" She laughs to herself, and heads on inside.
The Center of Hope embodies REACH’s mission to live into the promise that we already have everything we need – God’s already done this work. Our call is to step into the invitation to share in the richness of community environment and care for others with what we have. Sitting beneath the seat of Renton Government, the Center is a safe haven for the many women and families that come to it, with very real needs of food and shelter. It is an act of providence to those who volunteer – everyone has a gift to give, an idea to share, a story to tell. And on some days it is a bit noisy.... but hope, when manifested, is often a little noisy; it’s a bit of a bustle. And that is because hope comes when gifts - plentiful, diverse and wonderful gifts - are freely given. Praise be to God.
Warm-Ups, the REACH Breakfast Program, runs every day from 8:00-10:00 am. Hosted by Harambee Church, the program is less of a soup kitchen and more akin to a beautifully chaotic coffeeshop for the disenfranchised. Grumpy elders debate politics outside; a few tables of regulars laugh at their usual jokes while a few loaners in the corners look up over their books with mild annoyance. You might find J, the resident barber, giving haircuts or Von talking about his latest photography project.
What you won't find is Rodney. After Warm-Ups is over, he will be cleaning up the tables and stacking the chairs, but for right now, Rodney's in the back, doing the dishes.
He does them every day. A few weeks back, while sleeping outside, he was bit by a spider and his hand swelled up. It hurt, he said, but he was still there the next morning, doing the dishes. Yesterday, he sprained his ankle walking down a hill. Today he was hobbling around the kitchen, doing the dishes.
Somehow, without a car or address, Rodney has managed to be the most reliable person around, and he is always, always, smiling.
If you take out the homelessness, you've probably been to places like Warm-Ups before: the indie coffeeshop where the musicians go. You have the older guys arguing politics; you have the crowds, the loaner, the artist who won't stop talking about his project. At at these places, there's always this guy or gal, this reliable person who you should talk to if you need things done.
Rodney's our guy.