My daughter and I fed the homeless on Saturday.
I say that with a bit of sarcasm in my voice, not because there is anything funny about homelessness, but because....once upon a time, my BFF met this guy that she thought was awesome, and he was (is) a doctor and a super nice guy, loved kids, etc.--almost too good to be true, and single too.
Of course, he peaked her interest right away....she aimed to fix that problem of nobody snapping him up yet.
One time around Thanksgiving she asked Mr. Pert-Near Perfect if he spent the holiday with his family and he said no, that they lived too far away and what he usually did was volunteer and "feed the homeless."
When she heard this, my friend replied, "Oh shut the hell up!" I mean, she literally told the guy to shut up. Seriously? Feed the homeless? Who does that? It was just another item in the long list of things that made this guy too saintly to be real.
As further evidence of his perfectness, it should be noted that he was not offended when she told him to shut the hell up.
Fascinating man. Too good to date, however.
Because we are, well, us, it became a running joke--
One to The Other: "What are you doing this weekend?"
The Other: "Why, I'm feeding the homeless--and what are YOU doing, you low-life scum-sucking loser? Probably nothing as good as feeding the homeless."
Saturday afternoon, I was driving in downtown Minneapolis, and my BFF calls. She asks what I'm doing, and I say, "I'm on my way to feed the homeless."
Of course, she laughed.
I laughed, too. And then I said, "No, really, I'm actually doing it. I hope you don't think less of me." I explained that my daughter had some service requirements for school, that she opted to earn them by taking some turns helping out at People Serving People, and that's where we were going.
Is taking a few Saturdays to drive downtown and put food on a tray a big deal? No. Not really. Actually, not at all. Doing it regularly for 20 years, however, is a pretty big deal--that was the lady standing next to me, dishing up the baked fish. We got to talking...
To say that she's seen a lot would probably be understating things, but for me, the most telling moment of the entire experience was when she, a retired school administrator, made up a tray of food for a lady living at the shelter who had once been a teacher at a school at which the server had been a principal.
There's some perspective for you.
You walk away from experiences like that wondering if your tiny contribution matters much. A few Saturdays spent spooning peas on a plate compared to 20 years of voluntary service? Yeah...I'm feeling pretty low-life scum-sucking loser by contrast, but that's because "Feeding the homeless" is the thing that you say. It sounds like something. What you actually do, or what you CAN do, can be a much larger thing than that, and, it's OK not to talk about it. That is to say, if you think that donning a hair net for an hour and a half is a monumental sacrifice, then by all means, volunteer, but, for me, the bigger thought is that someone actually pays for all this stuff, and makes this small bit of humanity possible for the people who find themselves living in a shelter. Is that you? If you think more in terms of "I have money, and I can help buy food or other things they need" rather than "Yay me! I can scoop vegetables!", you may be on the right track. Changes are coming to this and other shelters because of changes to the state budget, so, now is a good time to be serious about actually feeding the homeless.