For the past few weeks, the number of guests we've served at the soup kitchen has been significantly smaller. Down 50-60% from just a month ago, and 70-80% lower than our highs during the summer.
We're perplexed -- wondering where all the regular guests have gone. (Our number of guests is always higher during the summer, when we tend to have more families.)
It's not like the economy is booming and they've all gotten jobs. For the most part, we serve the unemployable.
It's not like it's too cold for them to get out. A lot of them are out all night already. For the last two weeks, we've had several show up an hour before we open for breakfast, hoping that we can put them to work (and let them in out of the snow).
It's unlikely that they've moved south for warmer weather. Last year we had steady numbers all winter. Besides it's a long way to hitch-hike to Florida, particularly when no one's likely to pick them up in the first place.
It's not like the food's bad. We have a new cook, and the word on the street is that he's great.
Tonight I'm going to a meeting where we'll try and figure it out.
* * *
From one of my favorite Christmas songs:
And everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end.
This is my grown-up Christmas list.
- Linda Thompson