New Orleans Style Elizabeth Inn
‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?' And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25: 37,40
This past Monday, St. Catherines had a crew of volunteers provide their monthly dinner to the homeless at the MUST Elizabeth Inn. But this time, we added a festive twist. It was Lundi Gras, a day in which many in New Orleans celebrate red beans & rice, a staple of Louisiana culture. So we made red beans & rice from scratch there in the Loaves & Fishes Kitchen, brought in king cakes, and gave all the attendees Mardi Gras beads and played tunes from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band during dinner.
We had the residents come up to the window and mention they could smell the cooking outside as they waited, and we had our fair share of requests for seconds. Several attendees (and our cooking crew) enjoyed the music and were doing their own little dances in the kitchen. The kids enjoyed the king cake and having their own beads to wear. And we had enough red beans & rice left over for the residents to enjoy at lunch on Mardi Gras day.
It is the inspiration of Jesus' words and actions that leads us to feed those who are hungry and to treat needy strangers with dignity rather than disdain. So many of the folks we served were in the midst of monumental struggles, including unemployment, mental illness and addiction. I can only hope that our dinner party at Elizabeth Inn brought a moment of joy to people who rarely get them. I also hope that our service to others will inspire our brothers and sisters at St. Catherines to actively engage in acts of kindness for those who so often need our help.