Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Martha and Me

"We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give." -Winston Churchill

 An oft-quoted aphorism on this fair spot, but one that I love. Now that I am filling out my life again with work, yoga classes and other assorted things, I am returning to an activity I like to do: volunteering. I have found various ways to spend my time in the pursuit volunteer work.

 In Houston, I played big brother to a group of Somali teen refugees. It was always a trip driving into their neighborhood, passing from Black and Latino apartments into Little Mogadishu with women in colorful robes carrying baskets on their heads and babies slung to their sides in H-town. I used to take the teens out to do teen activities like play basketball or go swimming, then we would try out a different fast food so they got a taste of American teenagerhood.

 Back in DC, I used to volunteer to teach the U.S. Citizenship exam. I loved that program, as I used to help immigrants study for the test. We would mix civics and Americana as we would chat about what it means to be an American. I used to love when my newly-minted U.S. citizen-students would come back in after they passed, with their certificates and huge grins, and would share a little hope with the ones still studying.

This time around, I am volunteering at Martha's Table. Martha's Table is an organization that helps at-risk children, families and the homeless with educational programs, services, food and clothing. I am helping deliver meals to the needy.

I arrived in the late afternoon to help stock the vans. I chatted with a fellow named Jimmy, who had been volunteering for a few years. He spoke a lot about what volunteering means, and what the program means to those it serves. He said something that gave me chills: for those who the meals program serves, for most of the day, they are treated like dirt by society around them; in this case, this may be the only part where people treat them with any sort of dignity and respect. We chatted a bit about the value of time, and how much that time matters.

Anyways, we loaded up the vans, and I went off in a van with a few other volunteers near 4th st to hand out hot meals. There was a long line of people waiting when we arrived. Not everyone in the line was homeless, some just were struggling to get by and needed the food. We quickly set up shop and started handing out sandwiches to to the line that while they waited for a big plate of meat and rice. We did so for about 45 minutes, until all had received a meal and a bag of sandwiches to tide them over. People were friendly and appreciative, and we had a bit of banter with the guys. The food was ladled out, and the sandwiches distributed, and then we packed back up and headed back.

We returned, and unloaded the van, and I headed off back up 14th st from Cardozo back into Columbia Heights. At this point, I was hungry so I headed over to Sicky Fingers, a veggie/vegan bakery. I figured I had earned a dinner out, so I got a faux tuna melt with daiya cheese. It had them throw tempeh bacon on it for an extra treat. It was actually pretty good. Kind of gooeyier than a normal tuna melt, but a welcome treat for someone who hasn't had one of those in a while. And the tempeh bacon wasn't bad either. I am finding that when I am eating faux meat products, I tend to gravitate towards faux non-kosher meat like tempeh bacon or tofurky ham, just because I like the novelty of faux unkosher meat.

No comments: