Feeding the World, One Bowl at a Time
As most of you know, I pretty much opted out of Christmas last year, choosing instead to focus on Advent, a time of introspection and waiting. Then Christmas came, and Father’s homily struck a chord: You have been given the gift of Jesus. What will you do with that gift? To me, that meant I have been given the gift of Jesus in my heart, and I needed to take a hard look at the blessings I have received, and find a way to give back.
One gift or blessing I have is my ability to write. I felt I’d been using that, writing blogs to create awareness of, for example, the issue of homelessness. Which made me feel good, sure, but it also made me a little uncomfortable. What was writing about it really doing? Was it really helping anybody, or was it just pointing out the problem and hoping someone else was inspired to do something about it?
The natural question arose of how far was I willing to go to help someone, what was I willing to do? After much thought, I realized that since I am probably the most gullible person in the world—I take people at face value—direct contact with the disadvantaged is not a good idea. My heart is too soft. I’ll pretty much fall for any sob story, and have already, several times over. I may chide Louis for being a cynic, but he’s kept me from making a well-intentioned mistake many a time.
One of my friends volunteers at a homeless shelter. I thought about that, or volunteering in a soup kitchen. But again, I have a soft heart and will pretty much fall for any hard luck story someone tells me. Next thing you know, I’ll be emptying my pockets. So that’s not going to work. Not knowing what else to do, I donated some money to my local food pantry. Louis’s response was, “You gave money to the poor? That’s nice. I hope they got it.”
I’m sure they did, but it all felt very impersonal. So I went back to looking at my gifts. What are my gifts and what can I do to help? Well, one of my favorite things to do is make soup. I’m good at it. I can do it from home, on my own schedule, and people need to eat. I know how good a hot bowl of soup tastes on a cold day. I practically live on soup and fruit and cheese and crackers. I do a lot of crock pot cooking, and all leftovers go right into soup.
My thought was it takes no extra effort. I go grocery shopping anyway--I can just pick up ingredients as I find them on sale. I make soup anyway--I can just make more and keep a little for myself. I run errands anyway, so I can just drop it off on one of those days.
So I called my church to see if they knew of any homeless shelters I could make soup for. Sister Theresa gave me some names, and the one I had in mind, a small overnight shelter for men, was on the list. I called them, and they were delighted to hear from me. The best part is they have containers I can take and fill up and bring back.
So I made my first batch of soup, a tasty Italian vegetable with pasta in it, and packed it up and took it over there, and the plan was to do so once a month. But then I started telling people about it, and the donations started to pour in. A money order here, a gift card there, free ingredients from friends. One woman gave me a huge ham bone and five pounds of potatoes. I made ham and potato soup. Another dropped off six bags of frozen vegetables and promised to bring beans and canned goods she finds on sale. Suddenly it was a group effort and now I’m making soup twice a month. I’ve made split pea and ham, always a hit, and tomato with garden vegetables.
It’s something I can do that works for me. And for the next two days, I can imagine someone enjoying a hot bowl of soup who wouldn’t have otherwise. I know the food won’t go to waste, and it goes directly to someone who needs it. It’s an indirect way of helping that’s personal, yet keeps me from situations where I could fall for a sob story.
My only regret is that it seems like such a small amount, barely a drop in the bucket, but it’s a drop that wasn’t there before, and maybe someday will make a bigger difference.
That said, I’m always open to donations for ingredients to make soup, either actual food if you’re local, or a check or paypal donation if you’re not. If you want to help out, contact me here.