The frail young mother, her 3-year-old daughter in tow, got to the front of the distribution line for Thanksgiving food yesterday at a church in the Southeast Washington neighborhood called Congress Heights. The mother reached for the brown sack of food. So did the little girl, her arms outstretched but incapable of holding it.
Someone solved the problem by reaching into the sack, picking out an item and handing it to the child, who walked happily out with her mother.
The young mother was among 700 people in a part of our town south of Anacostia that we'll call The Invisible Washington -- rarely seen by more affluent Washingtonians and unseen by suburbanites -- who showed up for a ration of holiday food at the Catholic Church of the Assumption, 3411 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE.
Each sack contained an assortment of dehydrated and canned goods, such as a large carton of oatmeal and a can of chicken--"Not what you and I would consider a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner, but something" so the tables will not be bare, said the Rev. Thomas P. Kelley, who voluntarily left a prosperous Rockville parish to minister to the poor of Congress Heights. He said the food or the money to buy it came from many sources in and out of the community. And there was no religious test for recipients.
Before they walked up the aisle, there was a lay service -- not a traditional Catholic mass -- at which Doloris Jordan, a parishioner and a social worker, delivered a sermonette and a prayer. She was praying to the Lord, she said, but some of her words surely were addressed to you and me:
Think about where we are--we are not on Capitol Hill--we're in proud Southeast, Congress Heights, Anacostia. We can stand tall about our community . . . .
We ask you to bless those who gave for the food distribution . We ask you to bless those who wanted to give, but couldn't . . . .
Bless our president and bless our lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Touch their hearts, Father . . . .
A special word of credit: a squad of crew-cut young men, members of the honor guard at Bolling Air Force Base, helped receive, stack and deliver the food sacks. They're good neighbors.