I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend. We were discussing The Torch, and he had a lot of questions about how we do what we do. He was particularly interested in the fact we have zero strings attached for people to come have some food from the truck. Yes, we do hand out tickets, but that is so we can keep track of how many meals we served so we can responsibly plan for the next week. We count them, and make note of it, and that’s it. We don’t take any personal information at all, although I do like to learn peoples’ names, so I can be friendly. His questions led to a discussion about people and their needs, and I was thinking about it while I ran this morning. We have a lot of different definitions for a "need".
One day when we had the truck out, I was standing outside. A lady came to talk to me. I, of course, explained that the food was free and told her to go to the window and get something to eat. She refused right away, and told me she didn’t want to take the food from people who needed it, and said she was just curious about us and The Torch. We began talking and as we talked, she shared some heavy burdens she was carrying. I listened, because I could relate to her heartache and the painful experience she was undergoing. After quite a chat, I convinced her to take some food, because we pretty much don’t let people escape without feeding them something. As she prepared to leave, we hugged each other. I have never hugged so many strangers in my life as I do now working with The Torch. So, my question is - Did she have a need?
And the answer is: YES!
Who doesn’t have needs? Her need at that moment was not food - she needed someone to listen, and to care so she didn’t feel so alone in the world. When Sarah and I started talking about meeting people’s needs with the food truck, we acknowledged there is hunger in many communities. There is physical hunger, which we are happy to do our part to alleviate some of. But there are other hungers as well, and those needs are important, too. People need to feel like someone cares. Often they are hungry to be listened to. Sometimes people find themselves suddenly strapped for cash and they don’t qualify for any other type of help. We have had many of those folks give us heartfelt thanks for welcoming them to us without judgment, question, blame, or guilt. They were hungering for acceptance and hope that better days would come.
We have quite often encountered a need for community. People need to belong somewhere and to do something that matters; we welcome them to the Torch family. We have made friends with some pretty awesome and interesting people from all over the place through this adventure. We get asked to do some very cool things with some very cool people - and not everyone we end up serving always has financial or food needs - but they do have needs and if we have resources to meet those needs, we will help them. I understand many organizations and people are tied to certain governmental or other types of funding in order to sustain, and in order to keep receiving those funds they have to prove they are serving only one level of need.
We have chosen to avoid that path for The Torch. We want to be free to help wherever and whenever people need help with whatever situation they find themselves faced with. If we have the resources, we will do what we can. Most often, the need we encounter is for love and understanding, patience and kindness. Nobody is perfect and nobody does life perfectly. Sometimes we screw up, and sometimes things just go awry for no reason we can discern. Painful situations come, and nobody should have to feel like they must endure all alone. I will give a million hugs to a million strangers if that is a need I sense when I am out trying to be The Torch. I will talk to and listen to and pray for anyone who drops us a line and asks for it, and I will feed, without question, anyone who comes to the truck, because needs are not always physical or financial, and food can open doors to conversations that might not ever happen if we were not out and about doing what we are supposed to do.