It is pretty rare to experience a church without candlesticks in Malta since precious artefacts made of the rare and finest materials typically adorn our massive temples.

But the church I’m talking about has none of this, furthermore, the hundreds of crosses I’m referring to are not even wooden! This church is not a conventional one but the spirit is very much alive inside it.

I’m talking about the Soup Kitchen OFM in Valletta, a community that aims to sustain the hungry, give them dignity, hand-hold them through their ailments and nourish their souls. It’s a place where people come carrying their cross and try to find some respite, even if it’s just for a few hours every day.

Now that the Soup Kitchen OFM is open, let me give you some examples of the different crosses our clients bring with them daily.

An older man came eagerly on a Monday morning. Much earlier than usual. The reason being that his last proper meal was the previous Friday at the Soup Kitchen OFM and he was starving. His only nourishment during the weekend was a small cup of rice.

Another person told us that he did not have enough money to pay for rent. At first, he managed to find a small garage, below ground, humid and without any ventilation. He started paying what the owner requested even though he was living in sub-human conditions.

Some days later, the owner found a more lucrative tenant ready to fork out a few more euros, so he threw him out in the street from one day to the next.

Some guests who use our services and live far away walk for several hours to reach the soup kitchen because they cannot afford the meagre bus ticket.

An ex-convict who came out of prison and managed to reform himself found a job. It’s a new start, a new experience after all those decades locked up.

But he’s having a problem opening a bank account. So his past crimes are haunting him even after he paid his dues to society. They are jeopardising his livelihood and diminishing his odds of turning a new leaf.

These people are silent because many of them cannot even fathom the tragedies that afflicted them- Alexiei Dingli

A struggling woman with children visits regularly. The young kids are not even hers! Their parents abandoned them and she is their last remaining relative. But, rather than leave them in an orphanage, she left her job and dedicated her life to their well-being. She sacrificed everything for them and, of course, the struggle she is facing is simply overwhelming.

A family made up of two elderly parents and their son eat there too. One of the parents is fighting for his life, the other has dementia and their son is trying to free himself from a substance abuse problem.

Another person does not come for the food because he can afford a warm meal on most days but needs to escape his demons.

He wants to find a purpose but, like a candle in the wind, the spectre of solitude is quickly consuming his meaningless life.

An older man comes because he lost everything. When mental health issues started afflicting him, someone took advantage of him and left him penniless. Now he has to live day by day, trying to get through his critical situation.

These are some of the crosses we encounter daily.

Some of them sound unbelievable because our lives tend to be sheltered. We have no idea what it means to be in these situations!

Many of us never spent a weekend hungry. Our homes are comfy. We go on short breaks when we feel like it. Top professionals deal with our ailments and we have family and friends who care for us.

But did we ever stop and think that there might be other people who might be struggling around us? Don’t we realise that we are distracted by the cacophony of the world most of the time and tend to miss our silent neighbours?

These people are silent because many of them cannot even fathom the tragedies that afflicted them. They try to live their life with dignity. And society goes to great lengths to hide them too because, let’s face it, in a booming economy they are an inconvenient truth. The monument of our societal failures.

Furthermore, we all know that there exists enough wealth to satisfy anyone on this planet. Yet, its distribution is skewed against those who live on the periphery of our society.

Furthermore, let’s not forget that we still do not know what’s in store for us in the future and the tragedies that hit the people above may one day also afflict us.

So why not try to change things by supporting the work of the Soup Kitchen OFM (Facebook: soupkitchenofmalta) and similar organisations trying to help these people by offering them a life with dignity?

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