This Thursday, in a parish hall not far from the New Jersey town green where George Washington once made his winter headquarters, as many as 300 people will gather for their Thanksgiving meal. Some will be homeless, some will be mentally ill, some will be old, and some will be folks and families who have just hit a hard patch. For all of them, Morristown's Community Soup Kitchen and Outreach Center is one of the few blessings they can count on.
In many ways, this soup kitchen illustrates Tocqueville's point about the American genius for voluntary association. Having started out in a local Episcopal church, it has grown into a network that links restaurants, corporate sponsors and community groups with volunteers from nearly three dozen church congregations, including this reporter's. The result is a hot meal to anyone who comes to the door each noon, no questions asked.
This the men and women of the Community Soup Kitchen have provided for 26 years, not once missing a day.
Now comes a challenge greater than any snowstorm or power outage. Earlier this year, the Morristown Division of Health ruled that henceforth the soup kitchen would be considered a "retail" food establishment under New Jersey law.
From that single word far-reaching consequences have flowed. In a column for a local blog, Ray Friant, a volunteer from the Morristown United Methodist Church, called the rule "crazy."
Most obvious is the higher cost: at least $150,000 more a year. To meet this increase, the kitchen is asking each participating church to up its own contribution. Some congregations don't have the money. For those that do, it will mean less for some other need.
Much of this cost results from a new prohibition on people donating food they've prepared at home. For those on the giving end, often this was the only way they could participate, so eliminating their contributions means eliminating volunteers. For those on the receiving end, it means no more homemade meat loaf, lasagna, cakes and so forth.
All, of course, in the name of food safety. Still, one suspects that when a co-worker brings a tin of Christmas cookies to a friend inside Morristown's Division of Health, those cookies are not forbidden because they do not come wrapped from a supermarket or approved restaurant. Yet this is precisely the restriction these officials have imposed on men, women and children whose only hope for a home-baked cookie might be at theHow can the soup kitchen be considered retail when there is no monetary exchange? When is it a free service? Maybe the real issue is that the people preparing the food are not union members. How soon will it be before we have to have government inspectors going through our kitchens looking for e.coli bacteria and making sure that you are using latex gloves.
I often wonder if liberals insist on regulations and social programs because they lack the common sense and integrity that makes those regulations unnecessary for the rest of us.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." - C.S. Lewis
"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help." - attributed to Ronald Reagan
- I am thankful for my family, for my health, for a home that's warm and has electricity and clean water.
- I'm thankful for friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord.
- I'm thankful to live in America, and I'm thankful for God's goodness and mercy.
- I'm thankful that God found me and saved me.
- I'm thankful that He revealed Himself to me through His Son, Jesus the Messiah.
- I'm thankful for God's daily provision and for presence in my life.
- I'm thankful that He has been faithful to me throughout all my years.
Take time this Thanksgiving to let others know that you are thankful. Get specific. Thanksgiving Day should be more than a time to pig-out on good food--Take some time to reflect on how God has blessed you and provided for you. Then, let those around you know that you are thankful!!
Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.