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MILLION MEAL MIRACLE


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From ReaganGirl.com’s latest guest blogger, Scott Yagemann

June 5, 2012

Miracle: n. 1. An extraordinary occurrence that surpasses all known human powers or natural forces and is ascribed to a divine or supernatural cause, esp. to God.

June 2, 2012.  It wasn’t a large gathering which is apropos for the white haired 79 year old man who’s organization was being honored.  His name is Ray Castellani, former marine and retired TV actor.  He has a face at once youthful and boyish but with more crags and lines than a Dickens novel.  He once told me, “The only thing necessary to do this work is be ready to die.  If you’re ready to die then there is no fear.”

Ray Castellani, founder of Frontline Foundation

Since 1987, Frontline Foundation, piloted by Ray Castellani, has fed over 1,000,000 meals to the men and women of Los Angeles’ skid row.  Compare that to the number of hits for the latest video on Youtube and it’s not that impressive.  But take into consideration that this was all done by a comparatively small band of volunteers without any government assistance, day in and day out, unconditionally, for over 25 years.  It’s then that you can begin to see the uniquely American miracle at work here.   All money donations go directly to the cost of food.  No one is on salary.  In fact Ray himself was homeless in the beginning.  Imagine that.  He was living out of his old white Ford pickup truck wandering aimlessly throughout California and Oregon.  Even though he was 18 years sober, his family had long since disowned him.  He was alone and in despair.  He repeatedly pleaded with God for a sign that would direct him what to do with the rest of his life.  But nothing came.  Then after 16 months, a voice, clear as a bell, told him to drive back to Los Angeles and make 111peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and distribute them to the men and women of skid row.  He admits now with all honesty that he didn’t want to do it.  It was a crazy notion!  But he did what the voice told him to do.   “God is the director.  Period.  End of sentence.”

Since then he and his organization have affected thousands of people’s lives.  Mine included because I became part of this group.  It’s not really about the meals.  It’s about the exchange, the giving, unconditionally, from one person to another, without any outside interference.   At that moment we are all the same.  Tony, one of the regulars down on the row often places his dark arm next to Ray’s pale skin and says “See there, Ray, we’re the same color.”  Roxy, another of our regulars down at 5thand Crocker, is protective of Ray.  If she sees someone cutting in line or stealing food, she is right there, “Don’t even think about it, Mutha Hubbard!”

The one millionth meal

During our celebration I was reintroduced to three men in their mid-fifties who used to live on the row:  Larry, Ross and Big Red. They look like they could play defense for the New York Giants.  Tears of gratitude rolled down Larry’s face as he spoke about how Ray had saved his life all those years ago.  Everything he knows he learned from Ray.  Along with the other two men, he refers to Ray as his father.  Larry and Big Red, in particular, were violent men fueled by crack cocaine and alcohol.  Larry, Red and Ross had been appointed as security for Ray and they used to take their jobs very seriously.  If someone from the line approached Ray with a question, Red would punch them directly in the face, “No one talks to Ray when he’s working.”  Ray had to teach him not to do that.  Red, with Ray’s love, became sober and today is a regular member of society, with a wife and home.   Now that is nothing short of a miracle.

 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sown in his field.  This indeed is the smallest of all seeds; but when it grows up it is larger than any herb and becomes a tree, so that birds of the air come and dwell in its branches.”

By Scott Yagemann  6/5/12

 




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