Post Title: Another Helping of Adventure, Friends?
When I learned about the opportunity to serve at a local food bank during our monthly Lions Club meeting, I volunteered. I like to involve myself in community events. I had never seen it and thought it was high time I did.
I used to serve at the City Mission with my church. If I could dish up food, I could certainly plug myself into this task. I didn’t know exactly what skills my job would require but, as in times past, I knew I could muddle through. If I needed help, I could always ask.
I didn’t have the name of a contact person. But who would turn down a volunteer? We decided I would show up and they would assign a chore suitable to someone with low vision.
My brother dropped me off at the specified church. I had to overcome my first challenge—finding the food bank.
I followed a handful of people into where I guessed the food bank was. “Hang on, I’m coming!” I called to a young woman with a baby on her hip. She opened a heavy door and I didn’t want it to close on me.
My first step was almost my last!
My heart jumped to my chest. I either stumbled backward to the safety of the parking lot or I, as I like to imagine, I had somehow nimbly acquired the skills of an Olympic gymnast and landed on my feet. The steep step went directly down from the onset with no warning at ALL! I didn’t think the entrance was merely unsafe for a visually-impaired gal alone. It threatened the safety of anyone unfamiliar to the building.
After I caught my breath and slowly descended the steep stairway with the aid of my white cane, I searched out the food bank. The room at the end of the hallway opened up to a thrift store. Not there. Wrong ministry. I backtracked and tried another direction. I wandered for a couple of minutes, but the rooms were closed up.
I stood, stumped. An older, plump woman locked her arm with mine. “Come along dear, the thrifty store is this way,” she said with great authority.
“Oh, thank you. I’m um ….”
She turned out to be a prudent shopper. Not a single person wore a vest or seemed ‘in charge.” I half-heartedly looked at a rack of clothing, reached out and, equally quickly, dropped my hands to my sides. I had a history of touching the texture of a sweater or any other item that caught my eye—only to discover the clothing belonged to a live person, not a mannequin. I didn’t want to make that mistake today.
Finally, I made my way back to the hallway. As chance would have it, the woman with the baby glued to her hip walked up to me. “Are you lost?”
I laughed. “I’m trying to find the food bank.”
She looked me up and down. I could almost see the wheels turning in her head as she decided I could use some food to fatten me up.
“I’m a volunteer,” I explained to head off more questions. “It would be wonderful if you could show me the way, or better yet, take me there.” My smile invited help.
“No food bank today. It’s the Thrift Store’s week,” she said. “But I can show you the parking lot.”
On the asphalt, she switched hips, but, the baby seemed content whichever side she looked out from.
I contemplated walking home, but it was a good four miles. Luckily for me, another woman saw me at a standstill. She approached to ask how she could help.
Again, my words tumbled out as to what brought me to the church. “It’s a shame it’s the wrong day.”
She waved her hand in the air and said, “No, it’s the right day. It’s in another building. I’m going there myself.”
I patted the handle of my white cane. A sudden fondness for it came over me, remembering how I had fought the use of it for so many years. Once people understood the problem, they went out of their way to help me orient myself.
How could I not give back when people treated me so kindly?
We walked to the other side of the parking lot and climbed up three steps.
She called out to someone in charge of the large room filled with food stuff. “I found this lady Lion pacing the black top and decided to put her to work.”
A quick introduction ensued and a decision made. My task would be to ladle out samples of food.
“Sure, I’ll do it.” As long as it didn’t require me to transfer desserts from large metal trays, I would be fine.
I still cringed when I recalled accidentally dropping a commercial-sized tray of desserts “on the line” at the City Mission cafeteria. My job was handing out desserts. When I ran out, no one seemed to have an extra hand to bring more. The line began to back up.
Being independent, I thought I could transfer the desserts into my brightly-lit section of operations. But my low vision played a trick on me. As I set the heavy tray down, I missed the steel food bar. Before I could stop the momentum, twenty-five small Styrofoam plates slid off the heavy tray and splatted face down onto the floor.
Someone in the line started to clap and others joined in. No one knew my low vision has been the culprit. “We have plenty more,” I called out to the frowning crowd. “Never fear! We’ll get a cook to bring them out.”
The moment passed as quickly as the line had. But I didn’t want to face that again.
My duty at the food bank turned out to be easier. I simply handed out samples of stroganoff, pinto beans, and tuna and mayo on crackers. “Got it,” I said, happily.
The cook placed the bags and containers of the ingredients in front of their respective crockpots. The lady who brought me in whispered, “We have been giving samples for about a year. It works better.”
I gave he a puzzled look. “What do you mean?”
She pointed to an oversized silver can without any label. Printed in black directly on the aluminum read, “PORK IN JUICE.” When shoppers see that, it looks unappetizing.”
I leaned forward to hear her better.
“…Like Dog Food.” She went on to explain how no one wanted to take it. The woman shrugged. “Would you?”
I understood the dilemma. But I had lived and traveled in developing countries. In drought-covered Kenya, a can of any meat would have been reverently taken, eyes round with disbelief at such generosity. “It’s all a matter of perspective,” I murmured.
I sampled it myself. The taste wasn’t bad at all. “Tell me how to make it in case someone asks,” I suggested. Certain I could win shoppers over with the pork-based stroganoff was, I tasted the pinto beans. They lacked salt. At my request, a tall, slender young man, probably in his early twenties, tasted them. We looked at each other. The volunteer left and returned a few minutes later. “I have a solution.” He handed me two small containers—salt and pepper shakers. Such an easy fix.
I set out to fulfill my designated task. During slow periods, I chatted with other volunteers. One shopper said my pork stroganoff didn’t sound kosher. But she liked it all the same. The salt brought out the taste of the pinto beans. I let people sample the crackers and tuna on their own.
The three hours zoomed by. Before I knew it, twelve o’clock had arrived. The volunteers completed their tasks with ease, and I, well, I took so much away from the experience.
When we are faced with a disability—for me that’s low vision and hearing loss—it’s natural to expect help from others but not feel the need to give of ourselves. We may not think of it as being selfish. We may doubt our own capabilities.
But God has gifted each one of us with abilities to serve others. We are bland if we don’t offer something of ourselves. We are salt to others and need to serve with a generosity of spirit.
That’s why I love the Lions Club. Its motto, “we serve” allows me to demonstrate my gratitude in practical ways.
One of my readers captured my philosophy in her book review. “Blind—but in the eyes only.” I’ve learned part of living a full, rich life is to cultivate a balance of giving and accepting help cheerfully. Salt each day liberally with gratitude.
We might have trouble finding where we need to be. We might not see the correct side of a table. Food may sound strange and lack flavor. But if we keep moving forward, in spite of our misadventures, we will cultivate our “ventures.” Life is so good.
In the comments below, share a time when you have left your comfort zone and given of yourself. How much did you enjoy the experience?