It was gorgeous down at the Capitol today – much cooler than it has been in Michigan, with a gentle breeze blowing under the roof of the large white tent we’d had erected on the Capitol grounds and gently rippling the the Main Street Contract banner. Soup to Nuts had already dropped off the water bottles and sandwiches, and started the steno containers under the pans of chicken noodle soup. Michigan Nurses Association staff members festively decked out in red MNA t-shirts had been on the streets for the past hour, inviting those they passed to come to lunch for free. And come they did – over 100 of them, ready to eat.
So began “Governor Snyder’s ‘No Soup for You’ Soup Kitchen,” an event that drew the attention of the main stream TV stations in Lansing as well as the Lansing State Journal. Nurses in red scrub tops cheerfully served food to those less unfortunate, and even took bowls and sandwiches to people on the Capitol grounds that were physically not able to go under the tent. One RN noticed a man looking ashen and immediately determined that he was having an asthma attack. Minutes later she had sat him down, put him on his inhaler and was on her cell phone with his case worker. Another nurse with an iphone worked on getting a patient to a free clinic where he could get his prescriptions filled.
A short program, hosted by Jeff Breslin, MNA President, featured heartwrenching stories from Susan Cancro, Executive Director of Advent House Ministries in Lansing; Deb McMillan, an elementary teacher from the Lansing School District; Jennifer Shaw, a Speech Language Pathologist with the Lansing School Distrct; and Ashley Forsberg, a registered nurse at Sparrow Hospital. All focused on the needs of adults and children, and shared their concerns that Governor Snyder’s budget cuts would excaberate an already precarious social system.
A man, accompanied by two children, stood and watched. “Would you like something to eat?” I asked. “Nah,” he said. “We’re okay. My son here (he looked about 9) wanted to attend a protest. So what’s this all about?” So I explained to them why nurses would take time from their schedules to serve soup, why nurses cared. They listened to the speeches. The boy looked thoughtful. We shared some leftover cookies with them. They left after the soup kitchen was finished, the boy occasionally looking over his shoulder at the tent.
I wonder if this boy realizes how badly America needs a Main Street Contract for his future. I wonder if because of what he’d seen today if the man he will become will be a voice for justice. I was thankful that he’d already had lunch, that his father appeared to be able to take good care of his family without need of Lansing’s social system for families. The idea of nurses reaching out to the poor captured the boy’s attention and left him frowning with concentration – why nurses? Why now?
It was bringing the Main Street Contract to life in the simplest of ways – supplying protection from hunger for at least one meal. It was a wonderful day.