“Look up,” I had to keep telling myself. “Look up!” “Look at these people you are serving. Don’t just go through the motions.” In one hour we had served about 150 homeless men and women.
When my friend asked me to go downtown Indianapolis to serve at a soup kitchen, I said yes without hesitation, but also without any emotion or much thought. I just knew it was something to which I should say yes.
All of the food is donated, some of which is the leftovers generously provided by are food establishments and restaurants. From 7am – 9 am. I was assigned to look through a box of what looked like unsalvageable lettuce. I was, however, able to find enough eatable lettuce to make a large salad. By 9:00 am, the buffet was set. Breakfast of oatmeal, grits, and cold cereals served along with whatever was donated for the day. For today it was spaghetti, a casserole, and chili. Then there was a day old sheet cake and donuts.
I sheepishly thought about the Starbucks smoothie that I had purchased the day before for almost $5, a regular habit of mine.
As the mostly men and a few women flooded in, it was fast paced and as the cereal and bread server, I barely had time to keep the food supplied as the hungry patrons passed through my line. There was loud conversation. There was laughter. There was comnarandity. There was weariness. There was sadness. There was the shake of the head as one man said to himself more than me, “I’m not sure how I got in this situation.”
With the hectic pace and demands, I would start to get lost in my monotonous task and had to keep telling myself, “Look up.” “Feel” “Care.” As I willed my eyes to stay focused on those whom I was serving it hit me. These people who pass through my life on this day, each have a story to tell, and I started wondering as I “looked up.” Do you have a mother whose heart is aching for you somewhere? Did you have anyone who cared about you when you were little? Were you a good student or did you struggle? Did life deal you some bad cards or did you play the wrong hand? As I thought about the stories that could be, I had to choke back tears knowing this will probably be the only meal my friends will get that day.
My friends. I do not know them, but by simply looking up, I can’t forget them and their appreciative words of thanks.
I think I will go back next week and volunteer and look up again. What about you? As you go through the busyness of your day, don’t forget to “look up!”