Saturday, July 24
We got off to an interesting start this week. When we showed up at our usual serving spot with multiple car-loads of tables, coolers, and food, a man was already there picking up trash. He was immediately angry with us and insisted that we stay out of his way and let him finish cleaning up. We tried to explain that we come every week and that we pick up the trash too, but he wasn’t having it. So we unloaded everything off to one side, got out our trash picker, gloves, and trash bags, and picked up trash alongside him. One of the guests waiting to be served even jumped in to help. Together, the nine of us had the area picked up in no time and the man’s tone immediately shifted from furious to apologetic.
We learned that this man had been a special education teacher at a city school, is now retired, and was on a personal mission to clean up the neighborhood. (When we were done serving, he returned with a lawnmower to tackle an overgrown patch of grass nearby.) While I’m not sure I fully understand where he was coming from, I think his immediate feeling was that serving food in an area filled with trash was disrespectful to the people we serve and implied that they don’t deserve any better conditions. While it’s true we clean up the trash every week, we do tend to divide and conquer, with some volunteers cleaning up while others set up and serve food, so both things happen simultaneously. There are always hungry guests waiting for us, so we try to set up and serve as quickly as possible. But the important lesson I learned this week is that we should (and will from now on) take five minutes to clean up the area together before we set up our first table. And as with all things we do, our guests are welcome to help. I’m grateful for the important reminder that good intentions do not excuse us from needing to be mindful about how we show up in a neighborhood that is not ours.
Phew, what else to say? We were a well-oiled machine this week. It was a sight to see - our volunteers are total pros at this point and the line moved quickly and seamlessly. We were done serving in 30-40 minutes, but we served even more guests than usual.
Stats: 104 breakfast burritos, 64 bag lunches, clementines, first aid kits and soap and 300 masks.