On a Tuesday afternoon in April, Suzy and Leon are sitting at ‘their spot’— two seats at the end of the table closest to the Upper Room Mission’s back door. They’ve been sitting here for lunch and dinner most weekdays for three years, ever since Suzy got sick.
She got sick and Leon tried to cheer her up. First he left the Christmas decorations up to see if that would lift her spirits.
“Then he started dragging me places to get me out. One of those places was here,” says Suzy, finger waving at the dining hall filled with men and women biting into grilled cheese sandwiches and stirring bowls of chicken noodle soup. “And when I was here, I felt better, so I started coming all the time.”
For Suzy and Leon, it’s not just about the food.
“We like the people. We feel like we’re part of a family. We’re not judged or made fun of,” says Suzy, eyeing the rows of long tables, lit by the sun of the afternoon. “I feel good when I’m here.” As other guests come and go from lunch, grilled chees sandwiches and chicken noodle soup, they pass Suzy, wearing a sun hat that’s become a mountain of trinkets linked by hot glue—a blue bird, a lizard, a butterfly, and a scarecrow among them. A ponytail of white and grey trickles down the back.
A young woman just finished lunch taps Suzy on the shoulder. “I love your hat.”
Suzy, a dedicated crafter who sometimes works on her hobby here at The Mission’s Charlotte’s Place, nods. “It makes me smile to know it (the hat) makes other people smile.”
Leon smiles too.
They’ve been married 10 years, and each resisted the union because they’d both been married before. Both have four kids.
“But the good Lord had other plans,” says Leon. He volunteers here the odd afternoon, cleaning up in exchange for some sandwiches or pizza for the weekend, when the Mission is closed.
“We would eat, but we wouldn’t be eating well,” says Leon. Both he and Suzy need to eat well for their health. They both have diabetes, and met for the first time at a diabetes support meeting. “They do really, really good meals here. They do wonders. If I had money and this were a restaurant, this is the place where I would go.”
The couple lives on a small, fixed income, but they donate $10/month to the Mission to give thanks and support the organization that’s come to mean so much to them.
“We’re treated very well here,” says Suzy. “There’s a lot of love here.”