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On Friday afternoon I spent several hours preparing ingredients for a huge pot of stew. I sliced up some onions, then washed and cut up carrots, celery, potatoes, and tomatoes. Along with all the veggies I threw 4 pounds of meat into the pot with tomato sauce, salt, pepper, paprika, and boiling hot water. While the stew cooked, I gave it the taste test now and then, making sure the flavors were blending just right. Now that I’m in my 60s, I feel like my taste buds are finally honed to perfection, or near perfection. It’s taken long enough!
So why the huge pot of stew? A week ago Sunday, I learned through our church bulletin that there’s been an ongoing effort to feed the hungry in our community. Volunteers include members of various churches, as well as students from different schools. Now that we were aware of the program, my husband and I felt we needed to join others in offering meals to those in need.
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So on Saturday evening we, and about 6 or 7 other volunteers, served hearty bowls of stew and chili to people who wandered into the community hall to sit, eat, and visit. Many were regulars. It was obvious in how friendly they were with a couple of the volunteers. There was an easy camaraderie among everyone. Diners lined up eagerly, looking forward to a hot meal, with sides like garlic bread, roasted asparagus, a Mediterranean salad of sliced cucumbers, feta cheese, sliced onions and kalamata olives, cottage cheese with a wonderful bowl of mixed fruit, and another of canned peaches. Beverages included plastic gallons of white and chocolate milk, along with containers of juice. And for dessert, ice cream and cake satisfied everyone’s sweet tooth.
I helped ladle the stew I’d made into bowls, while a couple of other volunteers, 2 middle-schoolers and their mom, served up stew and chili brought by the woman who organized the event, and the asparagus brought by another volunteer. The diners helped themselves to the side dishes. It was humbling to be able to serve one meal to others, knowing that I’m able to dine 3 times a day. And when they expressed their heartfelt gratitude, I felt it was the least I could do for them. Such a small gesture, but to those with so little, it meant all the world.
With enough volunteers on hand, 3 or 4 of the regulars sat and chatted with the diners. Being our first time, those of us serving up the food observed, and learned “the ropes.” As time passes, I’m sure we’ll become familiar enough to venture out from behind the serving table. My husband spent the time washing pots, pans, dishes, cups, and everythingelse put in front of him, including the huge, crock pots emptied of their contents. Because of his contribution, the volunteers were able to pack up and leave once the evening was over.
It was apparent that a free meal not only afforded these unfortunate souls a warm, full belly; it also gave them an hour or so of companionship in a secure, comfortable environment. Many congregated into small groups, chatting among themselves in hushed, or spirited tones. There were elderly men and women, as well as those in their 20s, and a few somewhere in-between. A couple of individuals were obviously in their “own world,” but harmed no one, preferring to dine alone, quietly.
For a very brief time, it was good to give of ourselves to those who make their way in society, unknown and perhaps unwelcome in many cases. Feeding them, giving them respite from the elements seems the least those of us who “have,” can do for those who “have not.”
have my cutting board…primed and ready to go…hugmamma.