Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Distant Fingers


This blahg, only a vague reflection of my daily life, has been a bit too fluffy as of late. So I decided I am going to elaborate on my time at the soup kitchen this past weekend. My newfound desire to do good came from the realization that, although I love my new job, if I keep all of my time consumed with pop culture write-ups, I am running the risk of becoming a shallow bitch.

Last week, in the middle of this Florence Nightingale kick, I Googled: New York, Soup Kitchen, Volunteer. This led me to a church on W. 15th that is always in need of volunteers to help out with its Sunday morning soup kitchen.

So I sacrificed part of my Saturday night to get up early with the Christians on Sunday morning. When I arrived, I was assigned to tray duty, which means I had to bring the trays of food to the homeless. Being on tray duty is just like waiting tables, except you don't get tips and nobody really bothers sending back their food.

The soup kitchen is organized in a triage fashion so that the elderly and disabled are the first groups to go through the line. Everybody was very polite and some people even wanted to talk to me. But for the most part, they were just there for the food and could care less who was serving it.

I'm not sure where these homeless people came from, but I'm almost positive they weren't from the bottom of the barrel. For one thing, they weren't dragging a lot of crap with them; there were no shopping carts or heavy bags. Therefore, I can only assume that they came from some kind of rehabilitation shelter.

Taken out of context, the meals would actually seem pretty appetizing. There was a real hodgepodge of food, ranging from pumpkin pie, to chicken, steak, and wedding cake. And, of course, there was soup, although curiously enough, nobody really touched the soup.

After about thirty minutes of tray duty, I was pulled out of line to work on clothing duty. That, my friends, was a drag. This was my one day to be one with the people, to really get my hands dirty. Instead, I was sequestered to a stifling closet in the back of the church, where a gigantic bin of clothes was waiting for me to sort through it. As he left, the director warned me that no matter how claustrophobic I get, it's important to keep the door to the closet closed.

I started sifting through the clothes, which, by the way, were far from ragged. There were brand new men's dress shirts with tags from Barneys, Armani, Saks Fifth Avenue, you name it. Just know that wherever you are in this city, there is a bum crossing your path who is dressed better than you are.

After that task was complete, I was placed on bread duty and that was cool. People are a lot more willing to talk to you when you have the power of selecting their rolls. They would point into the bin, specifying whether they wanted a plain bagel or a wholewheat bun, and we would discuss the merit of cinnamon raisin bagels and pumpernickel bread.

As the line dwindled down, one woman, Sandra, came by with a huge cart and relieved me of all the bread to - you guessed it - feed the birds. According to Sandra, it's best to hit the lesser known parks, as opposed to Central Park, because the birds in Central Park are quite spoiled when it comes to handouts.

To wrap it all up, there was clean up duty, which, due to team work, did not take long at all.

Now. I'm not going to take this time to preach about how this experience changed my life, and the lives of those I touched with my careful distribution of bread, or how I plan on going to the soup kitchen every Sunday from now on, because that would not be the truth at all. I am, however, reporting back to you, my dear readers - or whoever is left - that I strongly urge you to get off your ass and try this out at least one time.


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