Thursday, November 28, 2013

Serving at the Community Kitchen

Today I spend more than five hours serving at the Community Kitchen in Columbus, Ohio.  It's a wonderful place that operates a food pantry and serves free meals.  They serve breakfast and lunch six days a week.  Once a week, they have a family dinner, and in addition to serving dinner to families, they have games, crafts and homework help for the kids there.

I did a little bit of everything today, signing in volunteers, directing them to their assigned stations, cleaning up spills, serving drinks and desserts, fetching more plates, finding toilet paper, letting the kitchen know they needed more stuffing in the dining room, finding someone to take out the trash.  It was good work, work that was real.

I am now tired, that good kind of tired when you've worked hard, and my heart is full.  What a wonderful feeling that is.

There were so many people that touched me today, that stand out in my mind.

  • There was the man, about my age, that showed me the handful of pills he had to take with his meal.  For his  kidneys, he said.  Tomorrow, he will go to dialysis, as he does three times a week.  He's been on the list for a kidney transplant for several years.  His wife died two years ago and since then, he's been alone.  He hopes to get a new kidney soon so he can go back to work.  He wants to be a mail sorter.
  • There was the mom with her little girl, maybe eight years old, that reminded me of Isaac's friend K.  Both had warm-looking coats and stringy hair.  I'm not sure what it was about them that made them stand out to me.   Maybe it was just that the girl reminded me of K.
  • There was the woman, about my age, that sat alone wiping at tears while she ate her meal.  I went over and ask if she was OK, which in retrospect was a really stupid question.  Of course she wasn't OK.  She said she was, though.  I said, "You don't look so OK," and asked if I could get her anything.  She said no.  I told her I didn't want to pry, but if there was anything I could do for her, or if she wanted to talk, or if she wanted a hug, to let me know.  Then I went and found her some tissues.  As she was leaving, I went over to her and told her I didn't know what she was going through but that I wanted her to know I would be thinking of her this weekend and that she really touched my heart.
  • There was the elderly man with stringy white hair who, after finishing his meal, helped clear the table with hands that trembled so badly he could barely hold a plate.
  • There was the group of four young people, maybe 19 or 20 years old, that got unbelievable excited when I told them they could have a container of leftovers to take home for later.  I might get that excited myself if you told me I could take home a hundred dollar bill.  Maybe.
  • There was the young man whose eyes lit up when I offered him a piece of pumpkin pie like the eyes of a kid at Christmas, looking at a pile of gifts under the tree.
  • There was the woman that timidly approached me and said she'd spilled her cup of Koolaid and asked for some paper towels to clean it up.  I got some paper towels and a soapy rag and together we cleaned the table.  She must have apologized for spilling her drink ten times during the two minutes it took to clean it up.  Then she asked if she could please have another cup of Koolaid, if she promised not to spill it.
  • There was the family, a mom and a dad and three little kids.  I saw the mom scooping some of her mashed potatoes onto her little girls plate.  I guess the little girl ate all of hers and wanted some more and we were not giving out seconds, although everyone that wanted one could have a package of leftovers to take home.
  • There was the man that ate about half the food on his plate, then asked me if he could have a container to put the rest in.  He wanted to take it home for his dog.  I asked him what kind of dog he had and he said she was a pit bull.  He didn't say this, but I got the idea he had trouble buying food for his dog sometimes.  He wanted to share his meal with his dog.  I thought about Isaac then.
  • There was the woman I saw attacking her plate of food in a way that made me think she hadn't eaten in a while.  When a volunteer accidentally dropped a full plate of food and I was trying to clean it up but having trouble bending over, she got up from her meal and came over to help me.
  • There was the man that asked me three times if I would make sure he got his container of leftovers to take home with him.  He was really worried we would forget to give it to him.  That food must have really meant a lot to him.
  • There was the wild-hair man that came in shortly before we stopped serving.  After he finished his meal, he stayed to help clean up.
  • There was the mom that brought her three kids to volunteer.  They all worked so hard and at the end of the day, the mom asked when they could come back to volunteer again.
  • There was the girl, about 13 or 14, that was volunteering with her mom.  She asked me to fill out this paper for her school, saying how many hours she worked and what she did.  I was so impressed with how hard she worked.  I don't think she stopped to take a breath for four hours.
  • There was the elderly gentleman that told me this was the 22nd year in a row he'd volunteered there on Thanksgiving.
  • There was a couple teenage boys volunteering, who also worked really hard.  I was impressed because they did every single job I asked them to do, including taking out the garbage about a million times, and never once complained or balked.  How did their mom get them to do that?
  • There was the volunteer who, at the end of the day, said she was worn out.  I said she should go home and put her feet up.  She said oh no, she was going home to cook dinner and serve it to her family and then clean up.  How do people get that much energy?

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