Learning from those less fortunate

Sarah’s Rap: As many of you know, Melissa and I both suffer from health issues and are working parents. Sadly, that means we don’t always make time for others outside of our immediate families. There is something about this time of year that makes both of us want to give back to our communities and help others less fortunate. If you didn’t catch Melissa’s post about caroling at your local hospital, check it out here. This year, I decided to help out in a different way. This week I volunteered with some of my fellow co-workers at a local church where we served a meal to 80 homeless and down-on-their-luck residents of the Seattle area.

There is nothing like sitting down with these resilient souls to make one feel humbled and so very thankful.

First we opened the doors at 5:15 to allow the long lines of people to enter. I was saddened by how many people needed a hot meal, but also so glad that there are wonderful people in the world to put on events such as this to help others. This particular church serves a dinner like this once a month, not just around the holidays and it was soon apparent that many of the people working at the church knew the dinner guests and vice versa. They were a community. Pleasure was shown from both sides in being together again and the guests expressed their thanks time and time again.

At 5:30, we started to serve plates of roast pork, potatoes, glazed carrots, salad and bread. Once everyone was served, we volunteers could grab a plate and join them at the tables. With all my food intolerances it was safer for me to not eat, so I stuck to water and sat with a couple of homeless gentlemen and my co-worker.  We were both a little unsure of what to talk about, but soon realized we had nothing to be concerned about. The two men were very chatty and excellent dinner companions. One man was from Upstate NY, like me, and lived 45 minutes from my hometown for a good part of his life. His grandmother and I were born in the same small town. What are the chances that I chose to sit down next to this man?! He was so friendly and we had a wonderful talk about our memories of the area and how nice it is there, but too cold for us!

The other man was a native of the Seattle area, which is often hard to find due to the large influx of techies from out-of-town. We had a good conversation about how the area has changed. Noticing my water, he also asked why I was not eating. Explaining my limited diet and why to someone that has no home and likely often does not know where the next meal will come from made me a bit ashamed. Not because of my diet, which sadly is out of my control, but rather because I often find myself consumed with feelings of hopelessness at my situation, upset that all I can eat is meat and vegetables and tired of the constant cooking. This man would likely be so thankful if he could afford all the meats and vegetables he could eat, like I have been able to do. I even splurge and get organic vegetables/chicken and grass-fed beef yet I still get grumpy that I can’t eat other things. Sitting at that table, seeing how thankful these people were to have a warm meal in their stomachs was indescribable and has instantly made me more accepting and appreciative of the fact that although there is a lot I can’t eat, the stuff I can eat comes easily to me.

I plan to go again for next month’s dinner (and more) and will take my family too. My boys have grown up with the luxuries of food, shelter, toys and loving family. I’d like them to have an increased awareness that there are so many people less fortunate, but also to realize that inside we are all the same. We’re all just people with histories, stories, personalities and experiences. No matter our income or material possessions, it is easy to connect with others on many levels and one never knows the impact we can have on each other’s lives.

I encourage you all to look for similar opportunities in your area. Check out http://www.volunteermatch.org/ or your local shelters, churches and community centers. Set aside a little time to help someone in need and bring a smile to their faces.

You won’t regret it!

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