Lessons from a Soup Kitchen

12 02 2016


It’s like chicken soup (kitchen) for the soul.

This week, I took my son and a friend to an area soup kitchen to do some volunteer work after school. It is important to me to expose my kids to not only the “have-nots” but also somehow reinforce the notion of service to others. In doing so, it becomes clear who really are the “have-nots” sometimes – and it’s not always on the side of the serving counter you might expect.

In our custom-tailored world of playlists, Instagram accounts and celebration of all things “unique”, we can easily lose sight of community. It is, after all, easier and quicker to connect with someone 3,000 miles away through the Internet, than a minute walk next door.

Volunteering at the soup kitchen was as much a lesson for me as it was for the kids, probably more.

  1. Don’t pity someone because of their circumstances . So, here we were, with a group of about 10 other volunteers, serving meals to people who came in, sat down at cafeteria style tables and patiently waited for a solid meal. Some were entire families, some were alone and others seemed to be familiar with each other. Like any other meal you might be used to, some tables were infused with laughter, smiles and banter. Others, not so much. I had to challenge my own notions and accept the fact that the tenor of one’s disposition does not lie within their wallet but within their soul.
  2. This generation is not any more selfish than any one before it, and perhaps no more altruistic, either. They are just like any other. If you believed everything you read on Facebook, heard on CNN and worried about with other adults, you may be convinced that the opportunity for our civilization to emerge as one in which we look out for each other, embrace a sense of community with pride and put our short-term goals aside for future generations (at least sometimes) is all but lost. However, in witnessing my son, his friend and the other younger set at the soup kitchen, this simply isn’t true. In fact, I don’t know that their participation – with each other or toward the constituency that was being served – was really any different than it would have been for me during high school or my parents before me. Our struggle is not always borne out of the convention that the past generation screwed it all up and the next must fix it. Let’s be honest – as we age, the real struggles of every day take precedent front and center over more collective based pursuits and goals. It’s just the way it is. It is us, the adults, that have to make a change. If our kids (the collective “our”) witness adults exhibiting the types of behaviors and commitments to those other than within our limited comfort zone, it will catch on. 
  3. People make mistakes. It’s not intentional and it’s always good to have a sense of humor. When it was time to leave the soup kitchen, the kids were cleaning up while I headed to the front of the soup kitchen to wait for them. One of the guys who worked there saw me and directed me to leave through the side door. I obliged, not completely understanding why. As I headed there, where others were leaving, my son and his friend headed over to me. Seeing this, the guy who worked there, looked at me and said “oh…sorry…you can go out the front.” In other words, he thought I was a soup kitchen patron and not a volunteer. Mind you, my hair is longer, I have a beard, my wholly jeans are from like 1996. I get it. It’s pretty funny. We both looked each other and without saying anything, we both knew exactly what happened. It may be the first time my son actually thought I was cool!

Life is a journey for all of us but we have to be willing to open up the entire map (or scroll down the GPS to keep it relevant). If we keep it rolled up (or don’t scroll down) so we can only see one part of the trip, we may stay comfortable but boy, do we ever miss out. Embrace the messiness, the discomfort, the embarrassment, the ugliness and the fear and there is so much more to enjoy.

Until next time,


My Millennia Moment

6 03 2015


Until I started working more with comedians and writers, my experience with “millennials” was pretty much limited to people at work and a few younger siblings of my (then) wife. I got along with them well enough and enjoyed their sense of humor but, at the same time, was always stuck by the sense of inner confidence and security they seemed to carry around with them.

My younger sister-in-law (at the time), upon graduating (just barely) from college, proclaimed “of course I am living in NYC” as if there were any question. I remember both of us were taken by the sheer surety of her statement. In contrast, after sending out 77 resumes, (yes, I remember the exact number), I moved outside of Trenton, NJ because that’s the one interview I was granted and ultimately, where I got a job. I never even considered there was another option.

At work, I would have colleagues just barely out of school sit down across from my desk to ask when they could expect their next promotion of move. I always felt like saying: “I was basically someone’s bitch for my first 10 years – why not make some coffee or fax something? Oh, don’t know what a fax is? Google it, find one and then learn how to use it.”

To be honest, that hasn’t completely gone away. I am not good with any sense of entitlement, regardless of age. However, what I realize is that I had it somewhat wrong. It hit me this evening when I was doing a G-chat with two good comedy buddies of mine working on our individual material. This was my millennial moment, if you will.

I try to collaborate on creative projects with those that I feel are both smart, driven, creative, trustworthy and have a great work ethic. There are more than a few “millennials” in the mix here. In fact, what i may have mistaken as entitlement or arrogance was really a culture shift from my generation (or at least from me) where their expectations are just more solid. They are willing to be more open and upfront and not settle in a way that compromises their principals. They also bring a level of expectation to the table that, while it may seem unrealistic or entitled at times, is often purposeful and goal oriented.

I have gotten some great ideas and feedback from these so called “less experienced” friends and even recognize some of these traits in my own kids.

The millennial generation also seems more likely to take risks, try lots of different things and test them out – more entrepreneurial in spirt, maybe because they do not have the job security that previous generations had and there is nothing to lose. There is no better foundation for stand-up comedy, if you ask me.

It never ceases to amaze me where we can get our lessons from. I can be difficult for sure and have waxed poetic many times about the “good ‘ole days” where people connected over a beer, not email, or had stricter limits on work/life balance but the truth is that progress is not comfortable and if overall, the good outweighs the bad, then we are moving forward.

I think the verdict is still out on how history will look back on the dramatic shift our culture has taken over the last 20 to 50 years. In the meantime, it is my perspective that, as long as there are positives to be gained, I need to remove my Archie Bunker mask, (now THERE’s an old reference) and get with the program.

I do have one thing on those millennials, though – comedy is like a fine wine – it really does get better with age.

Until next time,


I hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you did, please sign up for this blog and find me on twitter @marckaye1.

Every time you do, an angel gets her wings.

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