Two weeks ago, I had an amazing opportunity to volunteer at a soup kitchen for the day! Although I have worked with the homeless in the past, I have never had the opportunity to serve food and eat dinner with them. It was amazing! The location I volunteered at also doubles as a homeless shelter, and only serves women and their children. This is a different atmosphere from what I am used to, but I really enjoyed it.
We started off the night preparing the meal. They had already served soup as the appetizer, so I helped the rest of the volunteers (those who worked there and other students from my college) clear and wash plates. Then, I helped mash several pounds of potatoes! That night they were serving fish, mashed potatoes, and broccoli; delish!
While we prepared the meal, there was happy chatter at every table. The atmosphere was lovely. Towards the right hand side, away from the kitchen, was an upright piano that someone had started to play. Fun songs that everyone knew, like "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" could be heard throughout the room, and there was a group of women and children singing along. It was so wonderful to hear!
Once the food was finished, we helped make the plates and serve them to those attending the meal. After everyone was served and seconds were available, we made our own plates and sat to talk with the women.
My friends and I were approached by a middle aged women who was holding a brightly colored flier and a blue pen. She began writing us a message. "Why don't you eat fish and vegetable?" All of us had opted for the mashed potatoes, but we had already finished our broccoli. We wrote that we didn't particularly like fish, but that we loved mashed potatoes! She asked about our names, our ages, what we were studying in school, and we wrote our replies. She took the time to write a long note explaining the importance of eating healthily, and shared her story. She had always had trouble eating with the proper nutrition, and was paying for it now. She wrote, "Later, when you're aged people, you may have trouble in your health if you don't eat well". She gave us other advice, too, in notes she handed us as we cleaned up after the meal. Advice about the importance of our education, and how, as women, we must learn how to manage our own finances.
The majority of this she communicated through pen and paper. She had explained to us in the beginning, with a quiet voice and somewhat broken english, that she was deaf and could not read our lips.
It was incredible that she had taken so much time, and that she cared enough about our health to put that much effort into communicating her message to us. After we said our thank yous and goodbyes and she headed out the door, we stacked chairs, finished dishes, and folded our aprons for future volunteers. We left in good spirits, and I kept the notes she left us, coffee stained and folded, in the front pocket of my jeans as we headed back to school.