Food for the body, food for the soul

Barbara Waybright

March 31, 1993|By Barbara Waybright

I STAND in the northeast corner of the Humanities Department of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Here there are two large, gilt-framed windows with triangular panes. I can view the city's skyline to the north and east.

As I lower my eyes, I watch the busy flow of traffic on Franklin and Cathedral streets. Suddenly, my attention shifts to the people entering two buildings near the intersection.

Facing Franklin is the New Psalmist Baptist Church, home of one of Baltimore's largest black congregations. Each Wednesday, New Psalmist holds a noon-day service.

It begins with the scurry of churchgoers rushing to get out of the cold. I see smartly dressed young couples who have run a few blocks because parking is at a premium near the church. Older men doff their hats, revealing shiny bald heads. The elderly with their canes and walkers hold on to extended arms. Tennis shoes replace high heels as office workers walk swiftly to the church.

An usher opens the door for each visitor. The sounds of an organ, of preaching, an occasional "amen" and "hallelujah" mingle with the sounds of traffic.

At the end of the service, a wave of people leaves the sanctuary. They've received spiritual sustenance.

At Franklin and Cathedral is the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building, home of Our Daily Bread, one of Baltimore's largest soup kitchens. Each day between 11 and 1, Our Daily Bread serves meals to more than 750 people.

Visitors do not rush to Our Daily Bread. There's usually a waiting line, but everyone in it gets fed.

People greet each other with a slap on the back. Others stand off to the side and shift from one foot to another to keep warm. A hand moves to close a coat collar against the cold.

I see people in two or three layers of clothing. Coats look tattered. Some are too small. Many are wrinkled. People carry their possessions in plastic and paper bags.

Three men sit on top of the wall near the soup kitchen's entrance. They stare at the ground, seemingly oblivious to what is going on around them.

Slowly, one by one or in small groups, people leave Our Daily Bread. They've received sustenance.

As I start to leave, I take one last look. Seagulls and pigeons are perched on the roof of the Weinberg Building. From time to time they dive to the sidewalk for a morsel left behind by the hungry people.

The birds, too, need to be fed.

Barbara Waybright writes from Baltimore.

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