Everytime we serve lunch at the Downtown Women’s Center, it keeps getting better. Because there has been so much support from all of you — especially you volunteers who have enthusiastically thrown yourselves into this adventure — we have been able to individually spend more time with the Ladies. While they were called for “seconds,” Rucha and I took some time to stand back, amazed at how things have changed. Having more volunteers has truly made a difference, not just in how the lunch service flowed, but also in how some of the Ladies have started to respond to us. Supun’s last post talked about a Lady named Julie. I had a chance to talk to her on Sunday, and was so happy when she told me that she now looks forward to Be the Cause serving lunch. She said that other volunteers do not take the time to chat with the Ladies, and they just leave when they’re done. I didn’t mention that that was me and Rucha about a month ago, despite our good intentions. I’m starting to realize again what good things happen when we all slow down and take some time.
With Sukh leading the way, in true Be the Cause fashion we gathered in a circle for a few minutes of silence to reflect on why we serve. Having not done that in a lllllooooonnnngg time, I tried not to giggle as I closed my eyes. After a minute or so, I couldn’t help but peek to see if anyone else was looking up yet. Anyone who has volunteered with me will know that sometimes I tend to spazz over the details, and when it’s time to get certain tasks done I’m all gung-ho. It’s easy to find something to do — prep the veggies, unwrap cheese, dress the salad, wash the dishes, load the ovens, etc. I think about those minutes of silence and how they were to contribute more meaning to these tasks. Sukh reminded me of something I’d forgotten a long time ago — one of the reasons we serve is to learn about ourselves, to grow, not just to have our actions benefit others.
Personally, I believe that one of the reasons why it’s so hard to slow down is because it’s scary to be confronted with all of your insecurities and socially-imposed presumptions about other people and “charity” work. Some of the same feelings I had when I first started going to the DWC this year are still there. It’s still daunting, not knowing how well we’d be received by women who have suffered through domestic violence. Will there be someone who hasn’t taken their meds today, a toughened runaway? Are other volunteers ok with doing more than serving food? Overwhelmingly, the answer to the last question has been yes. But of course those questions also have their underlying issues.
In reality, this adventure has been nothing less than beautiful and I’m grateful for it. For the record, no volunteer has ever been put in harm’s way at the shelter.
This and the project at Project Achieve are very timely with the Change of Heart Weekend coming up. Even though some of us may be aware of the of social conditions that cause homelessness, I know I can benefit from some time to adjust my perspective on how I personally contribute to those conditions and disparities. For one, I think that the fear I have can be assuaged by reevaluating how I interact with people overall.
The goals or meaning of this project seem to keep changing, but it’s all moving in the direction of self-awareness and social consciousness. Plus, I’m learning a lot about cooking for a tiny village. I know there will definitely be more inspiring and thought-provoking things to come.
When lunch was over, the Ladies clapped for us, as they always do. If any of you who were there didn’t hear it, there was an old Fiipino Lady who was saying, “Congratulations!!”
I can’t help but clap for all of us too! Congratulations!! Yay!!