Updated: Feb 14
Summer vacations...time for a little R&R. Sometimes, it can be far more.
I spent an evening recently during my much-needed summer break feeding the homeless 3,000 miles away from where the needs are as great here as they are there.
It was an opportunity with an incredible 30-year-old organization that provides a hot dinner to the homeless 365 days/year, no questions asked.
We hear about the homeless and the growing numbers of families, youth, adults, veterans, and single mothers facing homelessness. In cities and rural areas. In every community.
We hear about food insecurity and hunger. We donate to organizations and efforts, helping where and when we can.
Yet it's only when you look into the eyes of those facing daily homelessness and hunger, and witness first-hand the level of appreciation, kindness, and respect shown to those providing them with a hot meal in a warm and welcoming environment where "guests" are treated like family that you truly understand not only the needs, but how many are in need as well.
A few guests will remain with me - an elderly man wearing a tie and jacket that was far too large, yet who believed that dressing respectfully was important to him. A young pregnant woman who asked for a second yogurt, and I watched her walk into the night after the meal had ended. A woman in her 30s who leaned in, quietly asking one of the organization's volunteers she clearly knew whether there was any pet food for her cat.
These people touched me deeply. I wanted to sit with them over a cup of coffee and say...tell me your story, for it was clear they each had a story to tell and a story that needed to be heard. And I wanted to listen.
Life takes hold and often releases briefly when we leave our daily environments and responsibilities. We work hard, do the right things, and search for meaning. And we also think and talk about happiness...how to find and keep it. We don't often think about it in terms of helping others, yet this is often where it can be found.
I experienced magnificent sunsets, hiked in the mountains, and witnessed dolphins in the pacific, and each will be lifelong memories. But it is the faces of the many people who stood in line at the Hollywood Food Coalition, entering the dining area, grateful for a bountiful, warm meal along with food items to take with them that will be the memory that will remain with me forever.