Yesterday I was very grateful to be a part of a small group of people with HUGE hearts and the skills and ability and ambition to help those who are beyond "less fortunate"– the people of Skid Row in Los Angeles – by handing out food as part of Have a Snack for Humanity. As I kneeled on the stained sidewalk in front of the Union Rescue Mission, furiously dropping bags of chips into plain brown paper bags and passing the bags on to the water bottle guys (who furiously dropped the bottles in and passed them down the line to the sandwich guys, and so on), I was only dimly aware of my surroundings or the scurry of feet belonging to bodies which had not been nourished in many hours. Or days, possibly. We worked fast and when we were done we got in our cars and we left. It took about 30 minutes once we hit the ground with the assembly to get almost 400 bags of food passed out.
But let me back up a few weeks.
One night, about a month ago, I was sitting next to my lovely friend Robin who had a list of events and service-oriented groups she is involved in and need volunteers for. I had just recently been unceremoniously dumped by a boyfriend and needed to get out of myself so I said, "Put me down for Friday night shift 6-9." I had no real idea what the job was about, I just knew I'd be serving food to musicians at a benefit concert. Good enough for me.
And so, this is how God works in my life. That spontaneous decision led to meeting Geoff, the guy behind Dad's Bar BQ, and the guy in charge of smokin' up some mean pork for killer pulled pork sandwiches being handed out to hungry musicians and roadies and friends and family of said music folk. Geoff is such a great guy, and the man has a smoker the likes of which I have only seen on The Travel or Food Channels. I also met Dave and other friends of Geoff's, and there were people I knew that Robin had rounded-up...it was so much fun that I went back to help out the next day.
It was that weekend that I realized that one of the "things" I do best...one of the things that makes me so happy...is to serve people. I absolutely love getting behind the scenes, meeting people, bantering with them and helping in some way. So when I texted Geoff and said I'm in for your next gig, whatever it is, he said, "I'm going to Skid Row, want to go?" and I just said yes. I made arrangements for my kids and said I'd meet him, Robin and some of my new friends at the appointed time and place.
That place was in a church in Lakewood, off Del Amo Blvd. There were bags and bags of sandwich rolls, boxes of chips and cases of water. We all donned gloves, readied the foil and in some great miracle of time and space where like hearts gather we came together in an assembly line and prepped buns, piled on pulled pork, rolled sandwiches in foil and filled two HUGE ice chests with almost 400 sandwiches.
|Robin and I prep our buns. :)|
All photos by Dave Summers for Have a Snack for Humanity.
While we prepped the sandwiches, one of the helpers – a tall, beautiful, blonde, pre-teen girl – explained to me how she liked volunteering for things like this. She told me that her father had died and when she went to grief counseling she was so inspired by the experience, she told her counselor she wanted to volunteer there when she was old enough. Her counselor immediately signed her up as a junior volunteer to work with kids her age who have lost a parent.
In the frenzy of assembly I was momentarily stunned – and humbled – to be in the presence of such a beautiful and gracious child, sadly wiser by terrible experience but so willing to pass on what she had learned in her process.
(Then there is Shawn....the son of my wonderful friend Robin, a little boy (little man, I should say) who was in the midst of it all throughout the day just going where he needed to be, doing, wrapping, stuffing, handing out, smiling...he, too, is a soul I am blessed to know.)
And yet, the pace was so fast there was no time for long pause or reflection, just chitchat and food prepping.
Quite soon, the filled chests, water and chips were thrown into three vehicles. Our caravan, packed with people and sustenance, hopped on the congested freeway which eventually bore us into the throes of extreme poverty.
People lined the streets, meager possessions in shopping bags, carts...some had planted themselves against hard, concrete buildings on the unforgiving and ugly sidewalk in makeshift tents. Some were grouped together....family? Safety? Some wandered. Some talked to no one. Some stared at us, some stared through us. But no matter how sad it seemed to my eyes, my soul saw and felt the crackling energy of humanity. I somehow looked past the stained clothes and the smell of remnants – bodily remnants, trash remnants – and felt that energy. These people lived in this way, this was their life, I was merely a brief visitor. This was their home, I was part of a group of men and women who just wanted to visit and bring a gift.
We had been briefed about what to do. Geoff has been doing this awhile. But this was the first time he did this under his new non-profit Have A Snack For Humanity. He and Robin teamed up and put their heads together...he's got the cooking and pitch skills and Robin has been doing non-profit service work for a long, long time and she's got the ins and outs of contacts and what to do. They both have hearts as big as the Universe and I strive to be a fraction as selfless as they are.
So, Geoff had us get out, quickly conversed with some Mission folk, got some security on our side, and as the group got into assembly formation, opening bags, filling bags and handing bags out, the crowd of people grew.
|The volunteer assembly line.|
The moment the last bag was handed out, we packed the emptied containers into the vehicles, and got in to take off. It was then I had a chance to look at the faces of the men and women and children, each holding a brown paper bag, two if they were fortunate. There was an old man sitting up against the wall, half eaten sandwich in his hand, his jaw working the food, his eyes closed. He had a look of contentment. He had also been given a bag of clothes by one of the volunteers. There was a group of woman, reusable store bags slung over shoulders in ill-fitting clothes, standing in a circle, eating their food, chatting, smiling. A guy, younger than me...still looking pretty healthy but lost...just lost...I gave him an extra bag before we left. As we drove away one bag was gone and he was working on the second. His eyes were closed too, but I didn't see contentment there. I saw pain. Or regret. Or maybe just the pain of gratitude for a free meal.
|Food and clothes = ok for now.|
|Glad for the meal.|
|Geoff and a grateful new friend|
It wasn't until I saw the photos of what happened...the group of us...most of us strangers to each other, working together – and seeing our group's interaction with the homeless and hungry – that I started to cry. To see little kids, families, the absolute gratitude for a simple meal...I cried because I was enveloped in feelings of extreme gratitude for my life and for the beauty of the souls in Skid Row and for God leading me to an amazing group of people with whom I wish to do this again and again. And get to know them all better. I want to do this because it puts me in touch with humanity at its best and lowest. A meeting of worlds where the collision sparks something good.
Have A Snack For Humanity is a spark of light in a world where we constantly get reminded of the darkness. Geoff, David, Robin and all the others gave me that much needed soul interaction where I realize my true purpose as a soul living in this body on this Planet is to love as much and as best I can and to try to show that love as often as possible. HSH is a way to show that love. I am so thankful.
|This is a little slice of awesomeness right here. A group|
I hope to get closer with soon.
Please, if you read this far, hit the #1 and/or share this with whomever you wish. The best way we can help is if we are helped by others and the best way to do that is let everyone know HSH is here.