I’m home—2 hours early.
I got there at 11:30 and all seemed very quiet. The early shift was leaving and a steady flow of new volunteers were arriving. I had expected a long line of people waiting for food but there was no one! There were many of us all ready to give christmas cheer but no one give to. I think we were all expecting the same frenzy or rush of people and felt a bit awkward standing there with heaps of freshly made food, water, bananas, and an eclectic mix of christmas music blasting.
But slowly, by ones and twos, people arrived. I made a concerted effort to make eye contact and wish each individual happy holidays—christmas, kwanza, navidad . I was on the water station where we had bottled water and canned “bubbly” water. Offering a choice between the two became silly after a while. Some people didn’t understand what “sparkling”, “bubbly”, “fizzy” water was so I suggested “take both”. Eventually, we ran out of the bubbly and had only the bottled water.
Some people declined the water “Thanks — we’ve got water”. Others took as many as they could carry.
Some turned down the banana but no one left without the container of food. Some came back for seconds.
Overall, it was anticlimactic. An odd word to use but fitting given my expectations. It’s also an appropriate word to use given the nature of homelessness, bare subsistence, drug addiction, and mental illness that is so rampant in our cities. Why would I expect it to be otherwise? It is something I see on a daily basis. I have become hardened to it. It is, dare I say, almost normal.
Naming what I am grateful for in the face of those I served today seems obvious and redundant.
Perhaps today what I would most wish for, is the opportunity to share the wealth of love and fortune I have in my life with those who need more. At some point in handing out the water, I ended up saying “take as much as you need”. It’s not about one bottle per person, it’s “what do you need?” If I can give it to you, I will.