Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Being grateful for what we have...

Today at work, our department volunteered to serve lunch at a local homeless shelter. This was my first time serving food like this, and it was definitely an eye-opener. We all think we know what it would be like to be there serving food, but I can honestly say that when you actually do, it is a different experience. (This is my coworker Eric and I.)

To see the people going through line was shocking to me - it wasn't just the homeless I'd anticipated. Yes, there were the homeless that you'd expect - a little bit dirty, hungry, some talking to themselves. And then there were men and women dressed in clothes like I would wear to work and in uniforms for their jobs, who obviously are working to make a living but cannot make ends meet and need the help of the shelter. There were senior citizens, which broke my heart. They are veterans, someone's parents...and they don't have enough money for a daily meal. There were teens (runaways or orphans or on their own, who knows) but each one obviously lost in some way.

The hardest part was seeing the little kids. Kids of all ages, from babies to teens. Hair done neatly by mom or dad or grandma, picking at their food because they didn't really want it because they didn't like the taste but knew they wouldn't be getting anything else. So sad! I almost cried a few times, because I cannot imagine my children having to live like that.

Each person went through the line, some asked for seconds, but nobody wasted. If they weren't going to eat the beans, they said don't put them on the plate. I guess I thought they'd just want anything and alot of it because they might not know when they'd get to eat again, but they didn't want to waste. They know how precious food is. Most of them smiled, many of them said "Thank you for feeding us" or "Thanks for being nice to me." Wow - to thank someone for being nice to them? What an eye opener.

Many of them did chores like the dishes or wiping down tables afterwards. I noticed a lot of dirty fingernails. I take for granted the simplest things like having clean hands - even though I know not all people have that, it's still somewhat shocking to see. Some people wouldn't look us in the eye - you could see having to go through this line and get food was a very difficult for them. They just wanted to get it over with and eat, and then go back out into the world. Some told jokes, some made small talk, and some just went through silently.

It was strange to see people my age in line, the mom's with children, and people my parent's age. All people who had similarities to me. They are all somebody's baby, someone's family, and by being told "Thank you for being nice to me," I assume the world might not treat them as such.

I guess I'm more blessed every day than I truly realize, because I have such a great group of friends and family that I could depend on if times got hard. It definitely makes you grateful for all of the things we have - and I'm not talking about the cell phones and the video games and all the "stuff" we buy. I mean the simplest things, like knowing tomorrow we'll be able to put food on the table for our kids and not have to worry about how we're going to pay the gas bill. The ladies running the show at the shelter were great - talking to these men and women and children, calling them by name. They knew who was having a really tough time on the streets, and who might need a meal for a disabled family member at home. They care about these people, and you can really see it.

It makes me wonder what I could forgo to help out a little more at places like the shelter, where people just want the most basic things in life that we take for granted -- food, shelter, and most important, a little caring and respect. Because I'd like to think that if any of my loved ones were in their situation, someone would be willing to do the same for them.

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