Twice a year, after Easter and just before Hallowe'en, the Church of the Most Holy and Undivided has a gigantic Rummage Sale. In the minds of the folks who enjoy it, and do the work, it bulks extremely large--major fundraiser, major community outreach, major fellowship. I think for some it overshadows Christmas and Easter, frankly. Anyhow it certainly overshadows everything else that might happen in the church for those two weeks of the year. Sunday afternoon immediately after the second service, rooms are emptied, tables set up, ordinary furniture hauled hither and yon and stored in strange places (like the nave)-- and (I know from sad experience) everything that isn't nailed down is liable to be whisked away and offered for sale: bits of church bric-a-brac, musical equipment, Sunday school pageant costumes... Receiving and sorting and mending and arranging and pricing occupy Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; the sale opens Friday evening, continues Saturday morning, and the crew celebrate their triumph with a catered lunch when the sale is over. Then, exhausted and full of rich food, they try to dispose of everything that didn't sell. This gets harder every year -- the charitable agencies have limited storage space, limited transport, limited volunteer helpers. Tempers get frayed. Hard things are said. Lower lips quiver.
Sometime during my second year here I had a moment of clarity about "the rummage." I looked at the rummage crew and thought -- they're old, they're tired, many of them are sick, (and some in fact are sick unto death), there are fewer of them than there were at the last sale. And for four days they will spend too many hours pawing around in junk and debris, surrounded by stuff that's ugly, dirty, and broken. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon, they will consume strong coffee and stewed tea and cake and donuts. Mid-day, they will consume more coffee, tea, and sweets, and some of them will eat dismal little sandwiches. They will work too hard, and get too tired, and their blood sugar will zing up and down all week, their discourse will be all complaint, and by next Sunday the negative energy in the place will be enough to kill a TREE.
So I went out and bought hamburger and vegetables and some "packet soup mix," came back, hauled out one of the big stock pots and a big knife, and got started. (We have this GREAT old 10-burner gas range!) About eleven o'clock somebody wanted to know "what smells so good?"
And thus was born the tradition that the Rector makes soup for lunch every day during rummage week. This way I know they all get at least one real meal a day with plenty of protein and plenty of fiber! (lots of grated cheese, lots of chopped parsley...) And they don't find it so easy to complain about me when I am standing over them with a two-foot-long ladle (that's my cunning)!
It's become a pattern -- Beef-Tomato-Barley-Etc. on Monday (it's sort of minestrone-ish); Ham and Split Pea on Tuesday; Chicken & Mushroom with White and Wild Rice on Wednesday...and on Thursday, "if you're very good and give me NO GRIEF whatsoever," New England Clam Chowder. Tomorrow for a change they're going to have (very mild) chili con carne. And there's enough of Monday's minestrone left for Thursday lunch for those that can't handle clams......
Chopping fresh vegetables is good for my soul. So is stirring great big pots full of thick, thick soup. And I had the joy of hearing one of the grumpiest of my mothers-in-Zion say to a visitor, "She feeds us...in every way..."