Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Giving Back

I’m one of those people that like to be busy, busy beyond the realm of the desk. It rarely matters what the task at hand is, just that there is a task. Therefore, eager to avoid the holiday doldrums, I took up the opportunity to contribute a few hours to a homeless luncheon at St. Augustine’s Church in nearby Santa Monica, California.

Initially, I felt struck by a terrible case of cold feet, confronted with the thought that spending time and making contact with people a lot less fortunate than myself would be an awfully awkward and painful experience.

So as we turned into a parking garage on 5th Avenue, I had that dull sinking feeling befitting usually of an experience that does not end well. It was with that sense of foreboding that I trundled across to St Augustine’s and descended into the basement, where the lunch would take place.

Quickly, the tides changed: the friendly, organised ambience within fought back against any worrying premonitions. The fact that we were all told what to do was immensely helpful, meaning that we had a comfortable sense of purpose when the downtrodden, unemployed and homeless came streaming down the stairs, gleaning for a drink and some food but perhaps more importantly some festive cheer. The servers mingled with the guests, creating a nice ambience that also procured some interesting stories, such as the visiting couple from Holland who had lost their credit card.

The meal of ham, yams, bread and pie went down well, accompanied by milk, coffee and fruit punch. Smiles only grew when warm hats and gloves as well as umbrellas were distributed in an attempt to help the guests combat the unusually cold and wet weather. Soon enough, the guests left to test out their gear and so the ensuing clean-up operation began. Reserves were packed off to the Salvation Army and homeless shelters whilst the helpers grabbed a plate of food. The younger folk engaged in a box-crushing session whilst the more disciplined adults battened down the kitchen. Everyone participated in some facet of this stage as well, reminiscent of just why the lunch was such a success: everyone pulled together for a common cause, spreading the Christmas cheer.

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