“I’ll just take my wallet.”
As we met the organizers and signed in for our volunteer shift, Rebecah and I got to work. I found a secluded spot under my side of the counter, put down my wallet and picked up a serving spoon.
I normally spend Easter with friends, sipping wine and sharing laughs over a home cooked meal. This year would be different. Back in January, I decided to get more involved with my community, follow through with wanting to make a difference, so I signed up as a volunteer for Someone Cares Soup Kitchen.
The task seemed easy enough; spend a couple of hours serving the needy – do my time, and get out of there. I’d meet some new people and earn Brownie points with God.
I grew up doing the church thing, and make a joke now that I’m a “failed Catholic”. In all seriousness, my faith in God has never been stronger, but there are too many things about organized religion that I don’t agree with to limit myself to one way of thinking, so I keep my options open to all venues of faith. I’m an equal opportunity child of God. I pray, meditate (thanks, Dalai Lina!), and above all, try to be a good person. That last one isn’t easy, especially when you’re a recovering narcissist; another reason why I opted to volunteer this Easter. I’m trying to make it less about me – at least some of the time.
So I offered up what was in my tray, exchanging smiles with hundreds of strangers. Some were so little they couldn’t see over the counter, so fellow volunteers (dressed as Easter bunnies) held the kids up so they could see the food.
Some of the men were my age and dressed in hats, dark glasses and barely spoke. I immediately figured they were hiding, perhaps in shame of just the fact they were there. Then there was the woman who looked my mother’s age, with a goiter so large my stomach twisted at the sight.
As time ticked by, the people kept coming. Some came up for seconds and thirds. And with each person, I looked in their eyes and saw they had a story. I cast judgement aside. I prayed. I prayed for their health and happiness, as well as my own. I prayed with gratitude for so many things in my life I never want to take for granted.
It’s so easy to get caught up with the why me’s of life, especially when you live in a sea of affluence like I do, on the outskirts of Newport Beach. Those Real Housewives are real. Living a mere twenty minutes from the soup kitchen, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between the have and have-nots.
After our shift, Rebecah and I went for lunch, then I did some grocery shopping. I was pretty tired when I got home, and the last thing I wanted to do was cook and prep my lunches for the work week. But I kept thinking about those people in the food line. I kept thinking if they had a fridge full of food, they wouldn’t think twice about cooking. So I played some tunes, sang in my kitchen, and got to work.
I always knew volunteering was a way to help people less fortunate. What I didn’t plan on was how this act of kindness would circle back to me – like some heartfelt boomerang – helping me recognize just how fortunate I am.