I love this event for many reasons:
- It really puts your own life and troubles into perspective seeing others who are cold, dirty and just really grateful to be given the choice of which (sometimes) stale dessert they can have with their meal.
- It's work that leaves you feeling fulfilled. It's a short time period-just 2-2.5 hours, but you're busy the entire time.
- It's well-organized and a wonderful project to serve others.
- It helps me feel connected to the community at large - I don't want to be one of those people who don't "see" the homeless. I want to acknowledge them as humans and let them feel some kindness from another human being.
- It's a messy job. We clean up after serving food to roughly 80-120 people each time. Not just like, oh, let's put away our stuff...but like, let's scrub away every bit of evidence that any human or any food was here. We leave that place CLEAN. Tonight I was sweeping one side of the room when I saw a man drop a piece of red velvet cake (side note:every drop of this cake should be cherished because it's the best cake in the world!) and before I could get over to his side of the room, he had kicked it, smearing it across the floor and his shoe, and then stepped in the remaining pile, as the person across from him stepped in the other. I'm not sure why he wasn't saying: huh, where'd my cake go? I mopped up that smeared red velvet later. Thanks buddy.
- It's on a work night and goes until 9:30pm. Am I the oldest and lamest person in the world? I just don't like to be out on weeknights.
- It's a scary part of town. I haven't seen anything bad happen but I hear of it. And I'd like to think that the person I just served a meal to would be helpful and friendly to me out on the street, but honestly-a lot of them are mentally ill or drinking/drugged. One guy will never ever ever ever make eye contact with me. I see him every few weeks and smile and try to be as friendly as possible-and I get nothin. It's fine. I'm used to rejection. Most people are super nice and happy to have someone smile at them so they make up for Mr No Eye Contact. And tonight there was a guy who didn't break eye contact once. Every time I looked at him, he stared at my eyes as if he was dissecting them mentally. I don't want to consider what was really going on in his head. He was a little off-putting with his stare. But most people are just lovely, a lot are...really..but not all.
Then the part of the night comes where we need to get rid of the food. We have to give it away or throw it away (the bread and desserts anyway). I was on dessert - so I took my big bowl of cookies out to see if I could get rid of them. And I was quite successful. Some guys had paper bags so they asked me to fill 'em up, which I partially did for a few of them. And then I headed to the back of the kitchen to put some other things away. After a few minutes, my new arabic friend came up to the counter and leaned over and smiled and so I approached and asked him if he needed anything and this was our conversation:
Man: You're killing them.And so it goes...I have maybe killed some innocent homeless people with my actions tonight. With my slightly stale leftover-holiday cookies of death. In xmas tree shapes with sprinkles.
Me: I'm sorry?
Man: You are killing them.
Me: Killing them?
Man: The cookies!! The cookies are not good for them. All the sugar you just gave them (gesture wildly to the room at large), it's not good!
Me: Oh...um...the cookies?
Man: Yes! You gave them so much sugar and now they are going to leave here and eat all that because they have nothing else! You are killing them. We are just ruining our society with all the sugar in our food and they come here for food and you give them so much sugar that the food doesn't do any good!
Me: Oh....yes......I guess that is true....
We finished the conversation with a short talk about how people want to help, but they don't know how and instead of donating cookies, people should donate some money, clothes or a warm place to sleep or books to learn from or a car to get to work.
So next time you want to help the homeless...eat your own cookies of death. Donate a shirt.