Monday, February 2, 2009

Soup Kitchen

On Saturday morning, a group from my church (and my AMAZING friend, Katelyn, who is always generous and willing to tag along with me) went to a soup kitchen about 10 minutes from our church to serve the surrounding people in need.

Honestly, I'd never been to a soup kitchen before and I had no idea what to expect. I'm a morning person, but the idea of waking up at 6:30 on the weekend wasn't too appealing to me. Saying that now is so disgusting to me, but I'm being honest. The night before, I was praying that this would be a good experience and would take us out of ourelves for a little while. Be careful what you pray for because God is powerful! ;)

We arrived and everyone was already shuffling around and getting ready for the flow of people. Everyone who was there to volunteer was either court-ordered or they needed community service hours for school. We were the only group that was there just because we wanted to be there. There were tons of volunteers, which was great. We wiped down tables and chairs and then started to organize the donations. I don't know exactly how helpful we were in the beginning; they pretty much have their duties down to a science (many of the volunteers are there weekly).

The real experience began (for me) when the people started to flow through. Our group was lined up, ready to serve. The guests are not allowed to touch anything for health code reasons; we scooped their eggs, we poured their syrup, we handed them their jelly.

In my judgemental human nature, I had expected most of the guests to look haggard, like they had slept in a box on the street and hadn't shaved in months. (Again, I'm not proud of this fact but honesty is key!) I was totally wrong. What really struck me about this was that many of the guests looked like they could be my dad. I saw my friends, my family, and myself in all of the people that we served. This could be me. This could be my mom. This IS somebody's mom. This isn't the life that they wanted or expected to have. They don't want to be at a soup kitchen having a meal, possibly their ONLY meal of the day.

There was a young girl there, probably 8 or 9, and she was probably the most polite girl of that age that I've met in a while. I wanted to take her home. This girl is wearing handed down clothing and probably has next to nothing compared to what her friends and peers have, and she's thanking ME for pouring her syrup. I should be thanking her for making me see what a selfish brat I am.

It's only by the grace of God that I am not in their shoes. It's only by his mercy that my family doesn't struggle as much financially as the guests there do. This is life. There is a world outside of iPods, name brands, and reality TV shows. I'm so thankful that my prayer was answered 100 times more powerfully than I had expected.

At first, I was really worried about being patronizing. I felt like the fact that we had to hand them everything and they couldn't touch anything was looking down on them or something. I snapped out of it and remembered why we were there. I was also reminded of Colossians 3:23: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."(NIV) We were there to show God's love and God's glory. How am I showing God's glory if I can barely look these guests in the eye? So I slapped on a smile and kept serving and it ended up being an amazing experience overall.

For anyone who is interested, the soup kitchen we went to is called Someone Cares in Costa Mesa, CA. If you are local, they accept donations (food, clothing for all ages, and books) on Fridays.

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered."-Proverbs 21:13 (NIV)

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