Volunteering Efforts 2012

Last year I made a New Year’s Resolution to finish my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, in an attempt to actually enjoy the holidays and avoid the last minute rush.  On the third day of my shopping expedition I came home ecstatic, to be 57% complete and thankful it was half way over!

Later that evening, I spoke to Cole about his recent experience working the soup line at the Andre House, at which time the word “thankful” was abruptly put into perspective. 

When I asked him what it was like, he simply said, “Amazing”.  Amazing to see how many people are really homeless, but look like the average person walking down the street.  He went on to explain, most people coming through the soup line weren't someone he'd expect to see sleeping on the concrete later.  And, amazing to see how many volunteers it took to serve all those people.  All the food donated that no one wanted, transformed into meals by over 30 people working together to make sure that everyone was able to eat that day.

volunteer_2012.jpgHe said that while the menu varies each day, nothing goes to waste, and every leftover is used for something.  To start, Cole and Heather worked on prepping the cookies to be served along with noodles covered in spaghetti sauce with a salad.  Once the service started, Cole’s job was to work the trash line where people would bring their plates when they were done.

At the trash line you get to see everyone.  The guy wearing his "grumpy pants", who roughly pushed his tray towards Cole without saying a word.  Those who have been in accidents; with burns on their face or walked with a limp. Another guy with a mental illness, who spent the entire meal arguing with an imaginary friend.  "There were the kids in dirty clothes  that came through, admiring my shirt, and surely wishing they were standing in it." 

 Everyone that comes through that door has a story.  One man, as he was returning his tray, wearing shorts that hung just below his knees told Cole “When I was a kid they used to be pants.”  And then there’s the faces of all the people just grateful for help, expressing it with a “God bless you” or “Thank you.”

“Thankful” is the word you use when you have nothing, until someone from your community serves you a hot plate of food with a warm smile.  Not just when you get a great deal at Dillard’s, without having to knock someone over for it.  It’s a Thanksgiving tradition in my family to go around the table before we begin eating, and tell everyone what you’re thankful for.  I can say for certain that the answer has never been “I’m thankful for a clean shirt and pants that fit.”  That usually comes after gorging ourselves on a feast of turkey, stuffing, gravy and pies!

I wasn't fortunate to meet my Great Grandpa Summers, but my Dad told me stories of him. Many of which were about how he worked in the mines as a child.  And though I obviously don’t remember him, I will never forget his favorite saying “As long as your stomach is full, your feet are dry and you have a roof over your head… everything else is gingerbread.”

So, this holiday season, enjoy your gingerbread… and share it with others! There are so many wonderful places out there that can use your help this holiday season. 

Need some ideas?

Check out the Andre House:  andrehouse.org

Julia Summers