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

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Staging a Life

2 09 2015

Whatever you do - don't live...it might mess things up.

Whatever you do – don’t live…it might mess things up.

Today, I had the realtors in my house this morning to take photographs to get ready to list it for sale. As some of you may know from earlier blogs, I am getting ready to put my house on the market as part of Marc 2.0.

I spent a lot of time over the past two weeks cleaning, patching, caulking, painting, weeding and generally making the home look more like something you would see in a catalog than where two kids with little propensity for closing a drawer let alone concerning themselves with Feng Shui harmonization principals would reside.

The realtor brought along a photographer and a stager. For those who may have not had to sell a property in a while, the stager is the one who moves things around and places things, removes things etc. such that prospective buyers can imagine themselves living in what will soon be your past home. 

It was interesting because upon exiting, the realtor said “the stager said there really wasn’t much for her to do – you did a good job.” I know this was meant as a compliment but as someone who reads meaning into almost anything, I found it an interesting metaphor for this turning point in my life and the life of my kids.

I have been spending so much of my time over the past year or so reflecting on how I got to this point in my life and trying to derive some sort of positive meaning or learnings from it. The one thing that has been an incredible discovery is the chasm that exists between the self we want everyone to see and the self that we actually are. Perhaps it is the self we don’t even want everyone to see but that we feel, out of fear (see past blog post), we are expected to portray. 

How much of our time are we staging our life for the catalog version of who we are, what we do, how we engage? Sure, there is a need to stage parts of our life, if for no other reason, than out of respect for those around us who either do not want to be privy to the cluttered, more realistic version, or more likely, have their own version to deal with. However, just like the staged home, expecting that we are going to live within that version is a dangerous proposition for us and especially those around us.

My house will never ever look as organized, clean and approachable as it will in photos posted on line. My life will never ever come close to the staged version that so many people are more comfortable with seeing. That’s just life. That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t take pride in those moments when the staging matches the reality…those moments when it just seems to be going right; the times when a glance in the mirror tells you that you don’t look so tired today or the ride to work was as close to a traffic-free car commercial on a winding terrain as it’ll ever get it. Those are good days.

I don’t look forward to having to keep the clutter hidden and the beds made for the next few months while strangers “imagine” how their lives will unfold in my current home. It’s not the work so much. It’s the sterile detachment from life, from the messiness of life in particular, that depresses me.

I have never been jealous of homes that look like they are straight out of catalogs. I think it looks amazing and wonderful but it also strikes me as removed from what a clinical home is versus a house with stories to tell. Maybe that’s just my excuse for never being able to get things perfect. I’m not sure. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not comfortable with something straight out of “Hoarders” either. I think you get my point, though.

Tomorrow, the photos of my perfectly staged home go up on line and people I don’t know will picture themselves and their lives in my house – maybe their yet to be kid sitting at the kitchen counter doing homework or a family game night in the living room. It is the way relationships are built, brands are marketed and homes are sold. Behind closed doors, the un-staged version is much more appealing to me. It says “welcome to your new home – it’s going to be a wild and messy ride.” What are you staging?

Until next time, Marc

Thanks again for reading. I appreciate it. If you haven’t already, please consider enrolling to get my blog posts delivered straight to your inbox through this site, email me at marckaye91@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @marckaye91. (Better yet, how about all 3). Also, through October 15, for every new follower I get, I will be donating $1 to Nechama, a disaster relief agency, in honor of my daughter who is raising money and awareness for this great organization for her Bat Mitzvah project! Thanks again, Marc








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