The Darker Side of the Bishop’s Dinner
The Bishop Dinner has been a thirty four year tradition in the Worcester Diocese. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, an army of volunteers descend on St. Paul Cathedral spacious and well appointed basement and put on a huge feed, serving hundreds of the poor, the indigent, the homeless, the elderly, the disabled, and, in tommy hilfiger uk deed, anyone who shows up. The spread is impressive: turkey with bread stuffing and cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, pie, little bags of candy, milk, coffee, and juice.
I say an army of volunteers, and this is true not only in numbers (for the Christmas dinner I estimated the ratio of volunteers to diners was very nearly one to one), but for organization and logistics, also, with a conga line of volunteers strung out along the walls of the large hall, waiting to load up plates from a large buffet style table, then disperse to serve the diners already seated. It is a nice touch, sparing the guests the inconvenience of doing this for themselves. It is a rather extravagant use of manpower, which works only because of the sheer numbers of volunteers that respond to the call. Besides having the benefit of allowing the guests a little dignity, it gets them in and out faster. This is telling. More on this later.
A squad of volunteers with milk crates pass out small cartons of milk, small, single serving Table Talk pies, and small bags of candy; some, with pitchers and jugs of juice, dispense drinks.
As I woofed my meal, the Bishop and the Monsignor worked the crowd, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. There was musical entertainment, also, as someone at a piano, then a guitarist, took turns playing happy, upbeat Christmas carols. When I first entered I begged for someone to play Holy Night but I never heard it. My guess is that it wasn upbeat enough.
Working the tables also was a photographer from the local paper, his reporter colleague speaking with the higher ranking organizers. Although I can vouch for every moment of this reporter presence at the dinner that day, I never once saw him speak with the di tommy hilfiger uk ners.
But this is of no account. For the moment, good fellowship permeated the hall, and everyone basked in the glow. A half hour later, the annual PR score assured, the Bishop and Monsignor left, followed shortly after by the reporter and photographer, having bagged the paper annual feel good human interest story.
Forty minutes into the meal, a roving band of volunteers appeared armed with plastic bags, collecting trash. It was at this point that the mood began to change, gradually at first, then markedly. At first, the trash collectors gathered up trash offered up by the guests, plucking up empty cranberry sauce containers, butter containers, and empty plates. But then their enthusiasm ramped up as they began to scoop up items closer and closer to the diners, some of them considerately asking the guests if they were done with this or that, others just assuming, the threatened diners instinctively hunching over and spreading their arms protectively around their meals like vultures. Woe to the inattentive diner who stepped away from his place as someone swooped in and scooped up all evidence of his food, whisking it away.
At my table, a quiet old man, who throughout the meal was either incapable or unwilling to speak up for himself (I had to bring him to the attention of the servers who kept passing him up repeatedly) grabbed at his food as an older woman came by to pull the plastic tablecloth out from under him.
Not able to contain myself, I said to her, a lot of these people have already had their dignity assaulted on every side. These are very vulnerable people here. Looking around, I singled out a senior organizer who had been interviewed by the reporter. I approached him and begged the same consideration from him that I asked of the woman, amid the growing cacophony of folding tables and chairs being collapsed. He looked peeved.
get that complaint a lot, he said. you have to look at it from the other side. These people are taking time out of their holiday to come here today. I could have told him that all that was needed was for people clearing the tables to take a few extra moments to discretely tell their guests that they had only a limited amount of time to clean up and that they wanted to get back to their families at home, that the diners would understand, and that it wouldn cost them too much extra time. But I saw already that he couldn or wouldn see it from the side of the disenfranchised and the dispossessed tommy hilfiger uk . I opted not to tell him also that yes, I had already considered the sacrifice of the well fed and comfortable volunteers. And all too clearly, I saw that, in his mind, the scale of moral and ethical consideration had already swung decidedly in favor of the volunteers.
I elected, however, not to pursue the argument any further. I shook his hand, thanked him for his service, wished him a merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year, and walked away.
Later, speaking with experienced guests, I found out that the Rush had always been an accepted and familiar practice at the Bishop Dinner.
Leaving aside the perennial complaint of other community organizers who wail and moan about where this massive desire to Back is the other 363 days of the year, it genuinely warms my heart that there are so many willing to give of themselves, even if it for only two days of the year. I don even begrudge them the warm, self satisfied feeling they go home with when the dinner over.
But witnessing the specter of the warm hand of compas tommy hilfiger uk sion turning into a backhanded slap across the faces of those most downtrodden upon not only reverses the feelings of good fellowship and gratitude, but leaves a stench in one nostrils and very bad taste in the mouth. I don think I be going to another Bishop Dinner.
I’ve never understood why that happens, but it does. For many years I organized a similar dinner, and my clean up volunteers always got revved up too soon. After a couple years, I had to ban any cleanup (except resetting empty places and mopping up spills) until the doors were locked. to start on the dinner.