Yesterday, my work team and I had the pleasure of volunteering for a truly worthy cause. I’ve had a smile on my face ever since.
It’s a sad fact that there are millions of children without access to food here in the United States – a country which prides itself on being a land of plenty. Thankfully, there are wonderful people and organizations stepping up to make sure these children don’t have to wonder where their next meal is coming from. A local organization doing just that is Kids’ Food Basket.
I’ve written about them before, but with all my years living in Grand Rapids I had never had the opportunity to volunteer for them at their headquarters. In a nutshell, KFB makes sack suppers for children who receive free/reduced school lunches, since those children often come from families who don’t just struggle to pay for one meal but for every meal. Currently, they are feeding over 4,800 children every school day.
My team at work decided we wanted to donate some time, and KFB seemed like a great choice. Our first task was making peanut butter sandwiches – 215 of them! We had a great time debating the merits of crunchy versus smooth peanut butter, white and whole wheat bread, and laughing as we talked about our favorite peanut butter add-ins (banana and honey are my all time faves).
With the smell of bread and peanut butter behind us, we moved on to our next task: packing the full dinner bags. Each bag got a variety of goodies: peanut butter sandwiches (the ones we had just made!), carrots, a banana, trail mix, a granola bar, cookies, a juice box, and one or two more items. My job was to load all the completed meals into the boxes that would be used to transport the bags to kids the very next day. All in all, we stuffed and packed 315 bags – a great feeling and a nice number, but it seemed so small when you think about the over 4,800 that they serve!
With each sandwich, each full supper, I couldn’t help but think about the kids and families who would be receiving this meal: would they prefer the crunchy or smooth peanut butter? Would they eat the heels of the bread? Would Mom or Dad have to cajole them into eating the carrots, or save the cookies for after it all was gone? Physically making the sandwiches and packing whole dinners made me ache for the parents who I’m sure would love to send their child off to school with a brown bag, or could guarantee a home-cooked dinner upon their return.
As I left, I felt twin sensations of sadness and gratefulness: sadness for the children and families who are my neighbors and fellow community members who live in constant food insecurity, yet grateful that I am secure with where my meals from, that I can shop and cook and enjoy food. And I get to write about it, too.
Volunteering my time, I knew I’d be giving something of myself; I was pleasantly surprised to come away with something just as substantial, particularly giving my goals with the Elul Challenge.
It felt fitting, too, the passage FH and I read last night as part of our Elul observances:
We cannot merely pray to you O God to end starvation;
For we already have the resources
With Which to feed the entire world
If we would only use them wisely.
– Kol Haneshamah (Adapted from Jack Riemer)