I am a firm believer in the importance of giving back and sharing good fortune with others. My parents instilled this in me from a young age, and it’s something I’ve held on to. Whether it’s giving money, resources, secondhand clothes or appliances, or your time, it can be such a little thing that makes a huge difference in someone’s day or even life.
It is so easy to get so caught up in our own worlds that we forget to look around and see how others are doing. It’s also easy to find yourself at home on a day off longing to do absolutely nothing. I don’t blame anyone for the former, and you know I don’t think there is anything wrong with the latter. But when we get in ruts where the only approaches we’re taking to life are selfish and lazy, that becomes an issue.
On Tuesday afternoon, I received an email from one of my managers looking for volunteers to help out at a community food centre. It had been a while since I did any organized volunteering, and I had nothing huge planned for the day, so I quickly let her know I was interested. It was four hours of helping to prepare, serve, and clean up lunch. Not the most difficult of tasks by any means. But the people on both sides of the counter were amazing. The staff and volunteers were all so kind-hearted and passionate about giving back to the community. They knew a few of the regular guests who came in often. They had a seriously impressive mug collection, filled with mismatched eclectic cups so that the guests could have a mug that they could almost use as their own. It’s obviously still winter, but I saw plans that were drawn up to build/plant a community garden behind the building, and they had us clean and prep vegetables for their affordable produce market on the weekend. The amount of care that was put into every detail of that place was admirable.
Before the meal, there was a smudge ceremony and some local aboriginal drummers said a blessing and performed some songs. It was seriously impressive; they had such strong voices and their harmonies were on point. The meal itself was impressive too; I think a lot of people hear “community lunch” and think of soup or something on the generic side. Today’s lunch was buffalo brisket and polenta, with fresh-made bannock and a chickpea and corn salad. There was real thought and care put into it. Apparently last week they had Somalian stew, so they really make an effort to keep things interesting!
Being that it was our first time at the centre and we were learning the lay of the land and how we were supposed to work, we didn’t get much opportunity to sit and chat with the guests. I noticed many of the staff and other volunteers doing so, so it’s hopefully something that we can look forward to next time! Whenever I have volunteered in the past, talking with the residents/guests/etc has always been the best part. You learn so much about other people, and often they have very different lived experiences than you, which enriches your understanding of the world. Even if you just talk about sports or the weather, it is nice to have a conversation with a fresh friendly face, and I’m sure (I hope) guests feel the same way talking to volunteers.
We’re all just people, after all. People trying to spread love and kindness and trying to make it in this world. Make sure to take care of yourself, but don’t forget to take care of others too.