Baked more than bread and cookies!
(In the oven went: 72 burritos, nine batches of cookies, and four loaves of bread just for fun…)
Having been involved in many school fundraisers over the years–everything from selling frozen cookies, to read-a-thons–I’m most pleased with the one fundraiser that my son’s high school puts on each November. At Providence Hall, all the students head into our community to serve an organization–and in turn they simply ask friends, neighbors and family to sponsor their efforts. It’s a win/win/win event. The school ends up with a few extra dollars in the till, the kids gain experience in serving others, and the organizations that are chosen get the robust and creative energy of teenagers for a day!
Each year I have helped lead a team of young people as they cook and serve a dinner for the Saint Brigid Fellowship, an organization run by our church that aids the homeless population there.
And each year it amazes me how powerful it is to reach out to those who truly are needy. In need of food, in need of care, in need of comfort.
I shot the photo above before the sun dipped low–and before most of the 50 or so people showed up for dinner. Once things really got going my camera was put away… But, I did take this one photograph of a fellow pirate before heading home. I was an injured pirate recently, after the last fire raged through the hills here in Santa Barbara, when my eye was damaged by a flying ember. So I shared that story with this gentle man, and he offered a great big chuckle and this gorgeous smile.
These sorts of events always tear at my heart. I add my little bit of effort and kindness, and then I remove myself so easily from the place. Drive home in the Volvo, singing hymns, or humming along with the radio. I walk through my door, put on jammies, maybe light a fire, maybe have a cup of tea. I kiss my children goodnight, then climb into my cozy bed, fresh with clean sheets and a fluffy pillow. I don’t dream about the pirate, or think about where he is sleeping that night. I don’t wonder whether he liked the meal, or if he’ll be able to find food the next day.
I don’t think of all that right away. But… it does sink in. My heart is changed, and each time I stretch a little more, stretch to give, stretch to be kind, and my heart becomes a little sweeter–a little more understanding of people–pirates and all.
Lastly, I want to tell you a wee little story. We baked so many cookies that night! We baked my typical recipe times nine. Every time I make cookies, I hide all sorts of good-for-you things inside. Nuts, flax seeds, oatmeal, wheat germ–whatever I happen to have in the cabinet.
Well, after the dinner was served, we put the cookies out and there were many eager eaters. One fellow, a helper that evening, asked if there were nuts inside and I said, yes, almond meal and walnuts. Phew! He was so happy he hadn’t tried a cookie–though MAD because they looked so yummy. He has an almond allergy.
A half hour later, a young homeless man ran up to the table and asked if the cookies had almonds in them. Yes! we said with a grin. But the grins faded when he told us that he also suffered from an almond allergy. Three doctors were there on site, so he was treated, but I felt horrible. Just terrible. I approached him, and the team of doctors to offer my apologies and do you know what the young man said?
Did he say–“You should have put out a sign!” or “Why didn’t you announce that there were nuts in the food!” No.
He said, “Mam, it’s all my fault. I’ve been allergic for thirty years and should know better. Don’t feel bad.”
Now, that’s a lovely lesson for all of us. He shouldered the responsibility–and was kind and humble in his response.
So today, I’m trying to learn from those we served. Things I’m allergic to get thrown my way all the time: I’m allergic to whining, and to kids pestering me with requests when I’ve already said no. I’m allergic to teenagers who talk back. The question is, can I bear these allergies with kindness and humility? Can I take responsibility even, for them?