Having grown up in a household of 11, 4th child of 9, with a mother that was always volunteering for something, school or church related, I was keenly aware of the idea of service. Throughout my life I have found myself in a position of volunteering in much the same way. But it wasn’t until I was finishing up a college course that required community service hours that I got the real gift of awareness.
I had gone back to college 15 years after I’d gotten married and had children. I was to work one day a week in a soup kitchen in Corona, CA at St. Edwards Catholic Church. I arrived at the kitchen thinking I would be serving the homeless and hungry lunch, wrong. They had a full house of volunteers and I was asked to work in the back room going through the discarded vegetables that another volunteer collected from local grocery stores that morning.
Then peeling and cutting up several pounds of carrots, several pounds in very tiny pieces. I remember feeling like I was being short changed because I was relegated to a little back room. That somehow I SHOULD be out front experiencing and seeing the workings of the operation. Also, they SHOULD be seeing me.
What I learned that day was invaluable. When all “my” little tiny pieces of orange carrot were mixed with all of the other finely chopped vegetables for a salad, it was truly one of the most beautiful huge containers of chopped salad I’d ever seen, as wonderful as any great restaurant salad. The realization that it took all of us that day to turn what would have been rubbish and discarded, into nourishment for hundreds. We served 250 men, women and children a hot lunch. From then on, I’ve gladly taken the smallest job that needed to be done.
I realized, that I had come to the shelter out of obligation for the college course work, not out of service to my fellows. It is in humbly giving yourself away that you are filled with an amazing sense of purpose, or Amazing Grace. It is crazy to think that the cure for the blues, loneliness, sadness, overwork, self-doubt and lack of motivation just may be humbly giving yourself, your time, and energy to your fellow man. Not to fix anything or be a hero, just to be. It can recharge, refocus and clear the chatter of your mind. Service puts light back into the soul.
Tuesday is my service day and I consider it my day off, my day to recharge. I don’t do the job perfectly but I do it as humbly as I can and great things happen. Amazing!