My wife and I do much of our charitable giving at the end of the year, choosing various causes, some local, some international, to support. We’re glad to do so, yet there is also a twinge of regret that our involvement with most of these causes is limited to writing a check.
While many of us are willing to help the needy, most of us probably don’t have personal contact with those in need. Even if we volunteer at a shelter or food pantry, there remains a wide gap between us and those we serve. It’s rare that we would ever visit them at their homes, or welcome them into ours.
How often do we ever find ourselves in a situation where we spend time with the poor as equals? Where we can put aside all our material differences and simply get to know one another?
The fact that we don’t often have that opportunity is part of what intrigued me about a “community café” proposed for the downtown El Paso area. The idea for the “Mustard Seed Café” was presented at a public meeting in early December by a group of men and women who had been discussing and researching the concept for over a year.
The idea is modeled after more than 15 such cafés that have been started around the country (a recent example is the Jon Bon Jovi Foundation’s Soul Kitchen that opened in October in Red Bank, N.J.). The concept behind the community cafés is simple: Everyone eats. Meals are provided on a pay-what-you-can basis. Food is healthy, locally grown if possible, with minimal waste. The cafés stress community interaction, bringing together people from all walks of life.
The proposed El Paso café is still in its planning stages — the biggest obstacle is finding an affordable place downtown suitable to serve meals in a location that would be accessible to as many people as possible. The full details of the proposal are available on their website, www.mustardseedcafe.org.
When the Mustard Seed Café organizers invited the public to learn more about the proposal Dec. 8, about 120 people filled the community room at the El Paso Community Foundation.
The organizers explained that the café would be a faith-based program, but not tied to a particular church and would not be overtly religious. They see the café as a way of tackling the nutrition needs of El Paso by bringing diverse people together.
I’m hopeful that the Mustard Seed Café can indeed take root here in El Paso and as it name implies, grow into a bountiful source of sustenance. It’s exciting to imagine a place where rich, poor and everyone in between would feel welcome to share andmeal together and get to know each other.
Written by Randy Limbird, El Paso Scene