Since the beginning of Covid, the safest way to serve our food has been in one. long. line. To-go bags with our weekly meals are handed out at the front to our community. As we patiently wait for doors to re-open so we can return to eating around a table with our community, this is how we do things in the meantime. The line has been hard. One of The Dale’s main values has always been to prioritize inviting the community to participate, that giving and receiving are mutually experienced. The line doesn’t exactly fit within this mission, but we do our best to still incorporate it throughout the week- whether that be having a community member hand out the food and help set up, receiving donations from our community, and working together to run our church service.
All that to say, the line has been quite the experience over the past two years. The team and I have been doing our best to be present with our community while the line moves up, and you would be surprised at the amount of things that can take place, even in a setting like this. Some may be odd, but the team and I just call them “dale-ish”. Here is a bit of a glimpse into some of the things that happen:
- Chats and laughs
Of course, the obvious, spending time in line results in making connections with people. Though some chats are more brief than others, I’m grateful for even just knowing each other’s names and saying good morning. It’s really cool when I get into a deeper chat with someone and we walk the entire line together until they reach the front.
- Dog Patting
There seems to be a handful of dog owners that show up with their dogs, which I guess is another perk to being outside. These dogs often bring joy to the dog lovers in line and lots of dog pats. As a staff we try to always have dog food cans on our shelf to grab if any ever need it because we have recognized how important these pets are to their owners. I myself love to pat all the dogs in line when invited to!
- Hair Cuts
Yes, you read that right. I am repeatedly surprised by the unique events that take place each week at The Dale, and recently that was a haircut. A friend mentioned to me that she cut her own hair and needed help evening out the back. It didn’t take long for me to fix but it was quite the sight as I stood in line (before it was moving) cutting hair.
- Receiving Gifts
Almost every Monday during our lunch line there is one, very generous, lady who walks around handing out granola bars. She usually starts with the four of us staff and then walks around the line to people she knows. It is so kind how she prioritized giving to others and taking care of her friends. There are many other folks who also give gifts, each one very different. Sometimes clothes, candy, freshly picked flowers, magazines, a box of lemons, etc. I love this, because regardless of the line there is still room for a give and receive relationship.
Every Monday morning during our staff prayer time we almost always pray for peace in the line. I don’t blame anyone for feeling tension when being so close to one another, especially those who show up very early and as a result have been there for a long time. I know when I’m waiting in line somewhere, especially for food, I get cranky. Therefore, sometimes we become mediators between fights that break out. In general, I am impressed with how peaceful things can be compared to other spaces I’ve been in, and I’ve witnessed some impressive patience.
- Freezies and Hot Chocolate
On these hot summer days it is prime time to break out the freezies. I often love to be the one with the task of rolling the cooler down the line handing out freezies and seeing the joy on people’s faces. The same in the winter happens when we hand out hot chocolate to the line as they wait. It makes the wait a little bit nicer to have something to enjoy while waiting for lunch.
I feel grateful to still get to experience community through Covid, even in these unique ways. There never really is a dull moment and that’s what I love about The Dale.