With her own two hands, Sujana prepared a homemade Indian meal for the Ladies at the Downtown Women’s Center this past Sunday. In a sense, she was a savior in more ways than one. We could have ended up with some food made rather in the Indian-style, based on recipes I would have plucked from foodtv.com or “The Best Recipes of the World.”
For all the BTC potlucks I’ve gone to, I’ve always opted to bring the fizzy lemonade in favor of the vegetarian dish. You see, to anyone raised on McDonald’s and mac n’ cheese, lentils are just scary. When we first met to discuss what we would serve at the DWC, I was under the impression that the Ladies were more “meat ‘n potato” kinda gals, and so they’d sneer at things like curries and tofu. I was soooo wrong. Sujana’s samosas, lentils and rice with vegetables were met with loud applause and gratitude. How could I have ruled out serving the very food that so many BTC folks love to make and share in their very homes? From now on, I think that instead of calling this a service project, we’ll just put out an invite and say that we’re getting together for a potluck at the DWC in true BTC style.
I’ve realized that at its core, this project is no longer about homelessness, trying to spark up a meaningful conversation with a complete stranger or feeling guilty for having “more than others.” More volunteers than I had expected to see inevitably turn up everytime. Inevitably, some Ladies will sit at the tables in front of the kitchen and just watch us, relaxed and smiling. Inevitably someone will show up with something special: Supun with his cartons of juice and water bottles, Joyce with that killer cake, Anna with fabulous peaches from her father’s tree. They see us pour a lot of labor and goodness and happiness into that meal. It’s so beautiful to see everyone light up. This is what it’s all about.
On that deathly hot day, the Ladies came in for lunch and were locked in for one hour. During that one hour, they could escape the heat, relax and be fed by some pretty amazing people who had somehow been drawn to the Center that day — even though they had other things initially in mind. By the end, volunteers were offering to bring Vietnamese or Nicaraguan food. Maybe I’ll throw down and bring some Filipino food as well.
It’s as if the line between guest and host has been blurred. You can show up with or without food; serve or don’t serve. We’d all still be so happy to have you.