Lessons from a Soup Kitchen

12 02 2016

soupkitchen

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,

Marc





What Kind of Seeker are You?

31 10 2015
It's roomier than it appears.

It’s roomier than it appears.

Happy Halloween. This is not going to be even remotely related to Halloween in case you’re wondering…unless you can  make the connection between seeking for new sources of candy and seeking for a home.

As some of you who follow me or my blog may know, I have been in the incredibly relaxing and ever life-affirming process of selling my house. (I just read a Facebook post that Harvard says sarcasm is good for you so hold on lads and lasses.)

It’s a pain in the ass. I’m not a slob but I’m not a “my house is staged and ready for showing on a daily basis” guy either, particularly with two kids who feel compelled to leave a trail of everything they do everywhere.

In today’s over digital day and age, I have the benefit (read: misfortune) of getting almost “real-time” feedback every time some realtor shows my house. It is really interesting. I was under the impression that most people that look at homes look at the layout, the neighborhood, how recent some of the rooms are (kitchen, bathroom), whether they like it and then decide from there. Most people want to put their own imprimatur (fancy for “imprint”) on their home – often redecorating, repainting etc.

Apparently, there is a large contingent, (at least where I live), of people who, if they don’t immediately like every single thing the moment they walk in the house, they are not interested. That is fine by me. It’s your money. However, it made me think about the way in which we seek out those people, things and experiences that ultimately surround and define us.

There are two types and I have witnessed both of these at work, in friendships and as of late, during political debates.

The Visionary –  You look for potential. Does this person I am meeting have some backstory that may be interesting? Is there something there that is at least worth spending more than 30 seconds with before I pre-judge? Does this house seem to fit my basic needs and, given the right price, the right type of personal touch, I can see myself in this home? Do these jeans make my butt really look fat or am I looking in the wrong type of mirror? You get the point – that type of thing.

The Checklister – You look for all the things that are wrong. Does this person just reiterate all the things I have always said about people “like them”? Does this house have too many things that aren’t the way I would do them? Do these jeans come from a store that I wouldn’t get caught dead in even though if you put them in Nordstrom’s rack and jacked up the price three fold, I would buy them? I think you get the point with this one, too.

You can see where I am leaning here. I can’t help but feel that in today’s over “twitterized” environment where opinions are formed in less time than it takes to make a bowel movement (you’re welcome for the analogy) and judgements are made even faster, we fail to see the true potential of places, experiences, and most importantly, people. It’s just not good.

You don’t have to buy my house. You don’t have to like working with me or even be my friend. But, in the future, when you keep complaining that it’s hard to find just the right place to live, work always sucks or it’s always hard to connect with people like you, you may want to think about potential rather than things to be fixed – and that includes ourselves, too. Be a visionary. It’s a lot more fun – for everyone.

So, be honest – what type of seeker are you?

Until next time,

Marc








%d bloggers like this: