Last Saturday morning–the morning after we came home from expedition–we all woke up at 5:45am so that we could be in the vans, ready to leave by 6:25. Now normally I would have had a serious problem with this situation, but we were waking up for one of the best reasons possible; we were volunteering at a local soup kitchen. Preble Street Soup Kitchen is located in Portland, Maine. We woke up quite sleepy, but without any complaints, we got dressed, ate breakfast, and were all out the door right on time.
The drive to Portland was mostly silent; we just listened to whatever Haley played for us on the radio. We parked a street over from the soup kitchen–it was raining that morning but there were still groups of people waiting for the kitchen to open. I was surprised to see such a wide variety of ages–there were elderly, middle age and quite young people in the groups. It was a sobering sight to see them huddled together in the rain. The bright thought that came to me immediately was that in a matter of minutes I would be helping to prepare what might be their only meal of the day.
The whole group of us jogged across and then down the street to the back of the building. Michelle pressed the volunteer button and we were greeted by a slightly plump lady clad in an apron and one of the brightest smiles I had ever seen; her face practically shone. I was slightly nervous and it was comforting to be greeted by such a friendly face.
She introduced herself as Mary, and gave us a brief run-through of what we would be doing. We were quickly split into groups and sent off to complete various tasks-cutting fruit, help bake potatoes, wash fruit, put out cereal, to name a few. One of my good friends and I were set up to make fruit salad. We gathered fruit from the giant refrigerators, knives and cutting boards from the kitchen, and set ourselves up beside the sink in the back. As we washed and cut the fruit we talked about how grateful we were to have three meals a day, a warm place to stay, and clean clothes. We quickly became super excited about what we were doing, “Lets wake up super early once a month and drive down here to help out!” “Yes, we can pick up each other up and drive down!” Our conversation continued as such. I felt so helpful; this people wouldn’t get their meal without this group of amazing people.
As two of my friends and I were cutting fruit we looked up at the window in front of us and caught sight of a man jumping up and down just outside the window–he was smiling and waving at us very excitedly. We waved right back. He was laughing at one of the girls because she hadn’t noticed him yet. It a moment full of such joy. I was humbled to see him expressing such joy despite his situation. I was amazed that such a simple moment of joy had made such an impact on me. I have thought about it often ever since. That moment reminds me to watch my complaints, and be abundantly grateful for everything I have; three meals a day, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, a wonderful family, irreplaceable friends…I could go on and on.
Just before 8am rolled around we began setting up the food for breakfast. Some girls served while others helped prepare meals for later in the day and clean up. I was so happy to see bright smiles on so many faces on people as they walked through the line to get their food. So many thank you’s and have a good day’s. I was practically bursting with joy and gratitude. This experience was a turning point for me in my view of the experiences and abundance to be grateful for.
I highly recommend volunteering at your local soup kitchen; grab some friends, take your family along, or go alone, and be ready to be changed. Always remember how much you have to be grateful for. Make a list. Say thank you. It will create a positive change in you.
Have a wonderful, gratitude filled week.