By Esther Kay, 01/20/23
It's Not Just A Meal.
It's something most of us take for granted.
We get home from work, take off our shoes, maybe grab a cup of coffee and head to the fridge to choose from any number of items we purchased from the local grocery store.
Maybe we get on Pinterest, or perhaps some of us even open up a cookbook, or recipe box (gasp).
We select a recipe that looks appetizing and we begin to prep and cook ingredients in our warm, private, safe and comfortable kitchen.
Simple enough right?
But what if it wasn't?
What if the only food you were able to eat for the day depended on what you found in a dumpster?
What if you were one of the better off people living on the street and you actually had SNAP benefits----hooray!
Now your choices open up to whatever food you are able to purchase (assuming you haven't traded your benefits to stay on someone's couch, or use their shower.) from whatever store, or gas station you were able to walk to.
Usually this consists of something canned, or packaged which doesn't require cooking.
Now imagine for a moment;
You've finally gotten up the courage to make your way to a shelter such as Camp Hope.
"Depending On Others"
It's not about pride--it's about survival.
Here you are; Often wet, cold, not wanting to look anyone in the eye--ashamed that you have found yourself in the position of needing shelter---of needing to depend on anyone else.
You see--on the street that can mean your downfall.
It can mean losing not only everything you have--but your very life if you trust the wrong person.
The staff help you fill out paperwork, they find you a bed with clean bedding, clean clothes and they show you around Camp.
It's all new and overwhelming, you're not sure who you can trust, if you will be able to sleep, if you will be safe.
Then 6 o'clock rolls around...
The staff announce "It's Dinner Tiiiiiime!!!" and everyone begins to line up at the meal tent---you line up too since just the thought of food makes your stomach cramp and gurgle as acid pours into your empty belly.
You hope that no one hears the sounds coming from your mid-section as you wait in line to be served.
Your mind is racing as you begin to smell the delicious scents coming from the hot dishes lined up on the tables, so carefully prepared by people who just want to show others they matter.
Finally it's your turn and you hold out your plate and accidentally make eye contact with the kind woman behind the table who smiles---yes she smiles at you as she heaps mounds of warm, comforting food on your plate and in a kind voice asks: "Is that enough dear--or would you like more?"
You are still feeling self conscious so you simply mumble "thank you very much." and head to a quiet corner table to sit and enjoy the first hot meal you've had in as long as you can remember.
"Well --there's plenty more where that came from---if you have room after that plate--you just come back through!" The kind woman calls after you with---(there it is again)---that sweet smile.
You finish one plate so fast and after seeing others go through the line a second time, you decide to get in line for seconds yourself--this time you give a small smile in return to the kind lady as you thank her and take your plate.
This time you savor the food a little slower and your body begins to warm and relax.
With a full belly, you make your way to your bed, lay down, close your eyes and you sleep better than you have in a very long time as you realize: You finally found a safe place for a new beginning.
You Make The Difference.
There are so many wonderful volunteers who help make a difference in the lives of the people we serve.
With something as simple to most of us as a warm meal served from loving hands---many people find hope for the first time in years.
This simple act of kindness is often the first step in leading our residents into wholeness and out of addiction, homelessness and trauma.
So next time you go to your fridge and pick out something to cook, have a moment of gratitude for the blessings which are not afforded to everyone.
And if you ever feel like being a part of a miracle to someone who is experiencing homelessness ----reach out to us--- we'd love to help you become a part of creating a safe place for new beginnings.