Operation Soup and Smokes

Time to time you see me post about OSS or Operation Soup and Smokes.  What is Operation Soup and Smokes you may be wondering, and what is it all about?  Well, there were a few friends of ours that started talking about how they would like to feed the homeless in our area and well, they just made some food and started doing it.  Just drove up to the park and said, “would this be good place to bring some food?”  It just went from there.  After reading a few posts on Facebook saying they were going to the park, Craig & I decided to join them and help as we could.

You may be wondering about the name. Well, here is a copy of the note that Rebecca, one of the originators posted.  I think she explains it quite well.

Why Soup and Smokes?

by Operation Soup and Smokes on Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 11:35am

Well, first because it is catchy.  So why not?

Second, because one of our trademarks, since we have been going out to the park, is to take cigarettes with us as well as food and drinks.  Now, we understand how taboo this may be for some, because let’s face it…  it’s kind of against the cultural norm to smoke anymore.  And those that do have to segregate themselves from non-snokers due to strict laws against the use of tabacco.  No longer are the days you could send your kids to get a pack of smokes out of the vending machines.

However, almost everybody that we have come into contact with at Finlay Park is a smoker.  There are a few that are not, but the mass majority is.  And the way I figure it is that there is only one thing worse than being a homeless dude.  A homeless dude without any smokes.

The fact that we bring cigarettes with us has given us more opportunity to make a difference in these peoples’ lives.  People are willing to stick around and look for us when we come.  At first, this may have just started out as wanting the cigarettes, but the more times we have shown up, the more often than not people have started to trust us and respect us.  This trust and respect that is not easily given on the streets has also opened doors of opportunity.

Yes, we want to help.  And although food is great and perhaps some would argue the smokes are greater, there is still a massive need that is not being met in these people’s lives.  Hope.  Since going out to the park, we have witnessed people opening up the stories of their lives to us and also witnessed more humbling experiences…  watching grown men break down crying.  That is tough.

People look for us specifically, and a few have specific needs.  Okay, they all do.  They know that if they come to us that we will do what we can to help them as best we can.  There is no way we can meet all these needs ourselves.  Yes, there are those people that think it is owed to them.  Yes, there are those that will take what they don’t really need.  Yes, we know people will take advantage of our hospitality.  But that is not really the point, is it?

And we know that there are people that will take the cigarettes we have and then ask for more and more and then take off as soon as we run out.  But that is not the point either.  So what?

The biggest question that people will have to get past to be able to do what we are doing is “Should we not go all out in doing all that we can do just because a few people abuse the system?”  Definitely not.

So the cigarettes are kind of our trademark now.  People also appreciate the good food and we try to do all of our cooking in mass amount with as much fresh meat and produce as possible.

Are the cigarettes healthy?  No, all medical research and information points to no.  But neither is being hungry, homeless, and hopeless.  So pick your poison.  All we give out is two at a time.  One for now, and one for later.  That is pretty much it.

Also, from my Army days as being a smoker, I remember the constant edgy feeling being out in the field for weeks at a time and running out of smokes.  So, I can empathize with people who go without them.  I remember standing in a circle with people who were able to get ahold of just one cigarette, taking a drag and then passing it on to the next person.  It was rough.

In all honesty, taking cigarettes out with us, is probably doing the city of Columbia a favor.  🙂  But you know, going against the cultural norm is just kind of what we do.

If you have any questions about what we do, feel free to ask on the page!

~~Rebecca

You can follow us on Facebook at the Operation Soup and Smokes community page, and as I said you’ll notice that time to time I’ll blog about our visits downtown. ~ Denise

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6 thoughts on “Operation Soup and Smokes

  1. Glad to hear that someone else shares similar views about the homeless in relation to cigarettes. On a mission trip several years ago, I brought cigarettes with me to hand out to the homeless people that we were helping in New Orleans. Let’s just say that the church folks I was with did not support my form of ministry. But, hey, what better way to start up a conversation with a homeless man, than to hand him a cigarette and smoke with him for a few minutes to find out how he got there? Anyway, glad that there are other people out there who don’t think that cigarettes are the Anti-Christ and the worst possible thing that I can give to a homeless person.

    • Better to hand out two cigarettes than for them to pick up the stubs off the streets. They are usually surprised that we don’t smoke and still have the cigarettes, but there those in the group that did at one time and we tell them that and how we know what it is like. Great post you had by the way, I’ll be looking for more!

  2. My goodness. I actually just stumbled up on this and it really touched my heart. I am a smoker and I often feel so judged… even when I have a smoke outside of church I get razzed for being a smoker… only one former pastor was good enough to say one thing to me which has always stuck, he said “Yes, smoke in front of the church, it’s good advertising, it shows that we’re a church about being authentic with Christ.” I haven’t found a similar attitude since, but still what he said is what I tell myself.

    I too know that smoking is bad for one’s health. But really there are a lot of things which carry just as many poisons if not worse than are condoned.

    Having been on the streets at the age of 17 I wish I ran into people like you. People who would cater to real needs, people listening to the heart of what my needs were instead of what they thought my needs should be. So much charity is based around an elitist group dictating what the down-troddens need’s should be.

    I am just really happy you are doing what you are doing. It’s so refreshing to hear about. I hope to have a ministry opportunity someday in my life where I can minister to the real needs of people.

    Hooray for Soups and Smokes!!!!!!!

    • Smart pastor! Actually, I don’t see where smoking is addressed in the Bible. 20 years ago handing out smokes wouldn’t even be questioned, I think it is more a cultural/political correct thing now. Feel free to follow us on our Facebook page Operation Soup and Smokes. Thanks for the kind words!

  3. Yes, I definitely think it’s a cause celebre for politicians.

    And yep, I’ve liked OSS on facebook and was reading through the updates hehe and I sent that special pastor a copy and paste of the OSS description I was so excited… I sent to another church member who asked how we could do this in our community and we’re trying to come up with a good service idea (we don’t have any homeless) cause it’s a small town.

  4. Pingback: Monday Monday | Just As I Am

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