Potato peeling has to be one of the most menial, tedious tasks in the kitchen. Why is it that when I’m doing it for my own family, it’s such a chore, but today it was an absolute joy? The fact that I felt completely out of my element (being in the kitchen is not my thing) was unsettling and humbling.
The whole reason I chose this shelter to volunteer is that it would be an immersion type of experience. This is a place for homeless families (especially single parents), to transition back into society after receiving training and a safe place to be able to get back on their feet. They can stay for up to two years, and have access to many community avenues of support. They can even get jobs or internships in the various areas on campus, kitchen, laundry, offices, etc.
I talked to several ladies today, all of whom are in different places in their life. One woman is retired and has been volunteering for a couple of months. She used to be a flight attendant, but this job is fulfilling to her, where she can do something that matters. One is married and enjoys the finer things, yet something draws her to the little kids who are there to fill their trays each day. One is a resident who works in the kitchen, who was allowed to use the kitchen to prepare food for her daughter’s birthday party.
The one woman with whom I connected immediately had been widowed 4 years ago, and that’s when her life fell apart. She found herself homeless, and now is living with her oldest son. Her youngest is eight years old. She is an intern in the kitchen, and her time is up soon. She’s nervous about it, but has a lead on a job as soon as her time is up. This reminded me of how life can change in an instant, and that none of us can really say ‘it will never happen to me.’ I know my family and I have been close a few times. It’s a scary place to be.
Can I make a difference here? Maybe. The kitchen is not where I originally wanted to be, but only because my skill set is not exactly suited. I’ve had lots of different jobs, but they’ve always been in my comfort zone. Maybe this is as much for me to shake things up a little bit for myself as it is to give a couple of hours a week to help those who are going through a rough season in their lives. Whatever happens, today’s muscle aches are completely eclipsed by the satisfaction in the fact that tomorrow morning, there will be hashbrowns for breakfast for the families at the shelter.