The Staff of Life and Food.
The Lord’s Diner is Wichita’s soup kitchen located at Broadway, just north of Central. It is a faith-based charity serving over 400 meals a day from 5:30 to 7:30, 365 days of the year, 7 days a week. It is manned by a small paid staff assisted by 5,500 volunteers of many faiths who prepare a hot, nutritious meal “in a spirit of compassion, respect, and loving service.” It is a debt-free facility built by many including 175 local companies and countless individuals who donated labor and materials.
And, if I had the money…
I would approach the Tulsa developer and local Wichitan who will be restoring this building to a hotel with a proposal. Let’s buy a few floors to keep back for the locals who dine at the Lord’s Diner in the evening.
Schafer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture, just down the block, would work out the schematics. These are the guys for whom I worked from 2004-2006 when my daughter attended high school in Wichita.
The Ground Floor
This is the floor where people, anyone, could come when life has taken them to their knees. There would be many others there who have been in this place and so need these newcomers to remind them of powerlessness. People would share, new and old alike, what brought them there. Others might share all the challenges, pain, and positives that lay beyond the adventures of the past. And, to share a gratitude for having the opportunity in life to finally reach the basement and experience the sub-grade of birth. There is a lot of work to be done on this floor, but it’s only twelve risers and the door is always open.
The Arts Floor
This is a personal floor for me because the beauty is and always has been there. In the sweet manure, in the fluttering trash sack of the junkpile, in that favorite old piece of clothing hidden by new sacks of sh!t. It might be beauty to your ears, to your taste, to your eyes, to your smell, or in a smile. But, (s)he was always there with you. And, now we get to take the time to look, to really feel the depths of the happiness and pain and beauty. But this time, unclouded and still.
There will be the wildly imaginative persons who need the contemplative to get the project done. And, the reverse, and everything in-between. But what is created will be taken out into the world and shared with everyone.
The Work-it Work-out Floor.
This wouldn’t have been necessary for so many when we all came to this country. But everything’s a muscle, the mind and the body. And we are midwesterners, so it is in our genes. It takes energy to make energy and for those with too much, too trapped inside their head, it must be stoked in some form, to finally get the coals back to the right temperature for proper cooking. Those who toil physically in their daily work get a reprieve. And those who are mothers have daycare. The kiddies would workout with their peers while mom gets to reclaim her mind and body.
And then, there is the dance floor.
Because fun is part of life. Sometimes it’s work to plan the fun, sometimes it’s fun to plan the work. But fun is a great motivator. And, in honor of Lionel Ritchie and the building, the first selection should be “Brick House” followed by “Easy like Sunday Morning.” And, everyone has to dance, alone or together, because it is important to dance while you can. Life is short.
And last, there is our past.
For this, the diners must turn left instead of right on Broadway.
And this is an add-on tour, optional, but the point should still be made. Without knowing our history, we are destined to repeat it. So, no matter how painful it is to experience our own, it is a learning that is the hope for a new future. And there is a comfort in our children and our world that nothing stays the same. And all we can do is live our lives and do our work and be kind and give in a way that we have great hope for the future. Not perfectly, not with the answers, not that we’ll do it right and the screwups might actually be sweet, but thinking, pausing, and trying each day for joy, freedom, and gratitude to be alive and for whatever comes next.
Here are some pictures that can tell stories to everyone, literate or not, as they have done since the Middle Ages. They are of pain and here, of people of conviction. They should be passed along. Our stories should be passed along, whether in a moment during a walk with a child or in a painting or a recipe.
And sometimes a reminder of earlier stories, told in the same way, that also shaped who we are and that we are responsible…
But, I don’t have the money….and I don’t have the energy…and the light is turning yellow…
So, I took the pictures. And I wrote a story.