My mom signed us up. At first everyone whined, including my dad. But then we accepted facts as the time came for us to leave the house. I told my youngest brother, “Tonight’s Christmas Eve Eve, and so all of Santa’s little elves are spying on us just checking to make sure that we still deserve to be on the ‘Nice List’. Christmas Eve Eve is very important so you have to be really good at the Soup Kitchen. Okay?” He nodded at a violent speed.
We had close to no information about how the runnings of the soup kitchen worked, like who we would be feeding and how. All we knew was the address, and to bring pulled pork on buns and tell our friends that we had invited to bring salad and dessert. Approx mouths to feed: 55
We pulled into a sketchy, warehouse part of downtown and unload our haul. It was pouring and our crock-pot dripped while we stood outside, knocking on the glass doors of the building we thought was the Soup Kitchen.
I really didn’t know what a soup kitchen looked like. A large cafeteria perhaps with ladies in hair nets and men with beards holding out bowls?
” ‘Naught ‘a th’ sort. “
A woman opened the glass doors with a grin larger than the country called China.
“HELLO! Welcome, Welcome, Come on in! We weren’t expecting you tonight because HQ forgot to tell us you were coming, but here you are!” She ushered us into the kitchen, her big blue eyes were gleaming behind her petite landlady glasses. She began to clear away what looked like thawing frozen meals and then pointed to the tantalizing aroma coming off our crockpot, “And what you have there looks so much better than the frozen sandwiches we keep in stock!” We smiled at each other and at her, then we rolled up our sleeves and got to work; no hair nets required. (Score!)
Salad was tossed, brownies were cut, and well, pulled pork sat there looking amazing; all in a little room that close to nothing like what I had imagined.
There were two long tables, each as long as an olympic ping-pong table. They were surrounded by blue plastic chairs. A christmasy centerpiece was plopped at the end of each table, complete with smiling snowmen and mini plastic Douglass firs set on one end of each. Booster seats hung low on the walls, available for reach. Thank-you cards and hand-drawn pictures were taped in an arch around the entry-way. It was no Best Western, but it was build by love.
As we set up shop, we learned a few things about this Organization,
1) They are an application-based Women and Children’s home for the Homeless. The people we would serve had earned their place here, the goal is to help these families through food, education, safety, comfort, and self-reliance.
2) There’s a learning center for the kids who live here and are tutored there by high schooler kids who need community service hours!
3) Random Drug tests.
4) We would actually be feeding half the number of people we had prepped for because during the holidays, many of these families leave to be with family.
(And a few other neat things which I will remember and slip in later)
We were ready and the doors opened. That room was more full with appreciation and Merry Christmases than oxygen. People ate. I sort-of taught the two little girls who were also volunteering how to toss a salad. Lots of people who had never tried pulled pork before came back for seconds. Almost everyone in the room was smiling, except for the ones with their cheeks full. We made faces at the babies and talked with their mothers. We took shifts eating with the families or behind the counter dishing up. Nothing was scary anymore, and we were all really enjoying ourselves.
Then, those little girls I tossed salad with? One opened up her little violin and played in the corner all three songs she had memorized, including the Can Can. It was adorable. Especially when she messed up and paused, her bow in mid strum, with a stumped and concentrated look on her face. “Oh yeah!” Continue she would. The families who remained clapped to the rhythm, and a few poked their heads in to see where the curious sounds were coming from. One little girl in particular who had long dark hair and huge brown eyes, probably the same age as the girl playing, stood very close and watched intently. I left to do something in the kitchen, but when I came back, the violin was on the dark-haired girls shoulder, and my little salad girl was teaching her how to play. Dark-hair was ecstatic, closing her eyes and playing short little screeches to her heart’s content.
Christmas is about that rosy red thing called love. I pray for you and your family that you find some tomorrow and all the days to follow. And if you can’t find some, give some. Don’t worry, you have this love generator thing called a human heart. It’s very useful when serving soup in a kitchen, which I strongly suggest you try sometime. Musical instruments optional but highly looked upon.
Merry Christmas Guys :)