I am not a morning person but today I woke up at 4:45 AM excited to go out and make a small difference in the world. It was still dark as I pulled out of the driveway and drove to St. Paul. To volunteer at the Union Gospel Mission with my family.
And what a gift it was. For us. To serve others in need.
We had talked about volunteering during Thanksgiving week many times but sadly there always seemed to be a ridiculous excuse standing in the way. I’m too busy. I don’t have time. It’s too late. Slots were filled. We will do it next year.
No more excuses. My husband took charge and sent out an email to everyone suggesting that we volunteer as a family this year. We shared a beautiful experience with one another and I can honestly say that I was honored to stand beside my husband and our kids.
We arrived right on time and in truth I did not know what to expect. The group of volunteers was small and we were all assigned tasks as we prepared to serve breakfast to a gathering of homeless men.
It was an unforgettable experience. Yes – we served food one tray at a time to countless men who waited patiently and hungry in line. For a hot meal on a cold fall morning. But it was not the desire for food that stood out to me. It was not the grits or fruit or hot coffee but rather the need for connection that tugged at my heart the most.
Of course each of these men appreciated the food but there was something far more meaningful going on with the exchange of each and every word.
I enjoyed serving the food. But – what I enjoyed most was connecting with each man as they walked by.
These brave men needed what we all need. To feel connected to other human beings. To feel like they matter and even if it is for a few short seconds, to feel seen and heard.
A smile. Direct eye contact with a simple good morning or hello. Thank you. What is your name. God bless you or simply to have a nice day. Shared laughter over a scoop of cottage cheese and quite honestly, it was the best laugh I have had in a very long time.
Everyone needs connection not to mention we all need to feel loved.
I did not know any of these men personally and while I may never see any of them again, I somehow felt a connection shared by the common bond of humanity and love. We are united by the simple and endearing fact that everyone deserves kindness and every human needs to matter to someone.
In truth – I did not see these men as homeless or different. Instead, I saw them as individuals with a name just like you and me. Regular, wonderful people that have lost some of the most basic necessities in life including their homes. Fathers. Husbands. Brothers. Grandfathers. Sons – not to mention friends. These are people that have a story to share and tell.
Today tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me that there are so many people that are struggling and hurting in this world. People that do not need to be labeled or judged. For things that so many of us do not understand and know nothing about. Remember – it is impossible to know what another is going through until we have first walked in their shoes.
I was reminded that we all have have the capacity to make a difference. There are so many things that each and every one of us can do to help others and to change lives. It can be as simple as a smile, a hug, saying hello or buying a cup of coffee on a cold winter’s day.
Be kind. It costs nothing but can mean everything to someone every single time. Just show up. You are needed and there are hundreds of organizations looking for people just like you to volunteer and give your time. Doing good feels good and undeniably it is a gift for others and a gift for your own heart.
It is holiday season and while acts of kindness are a wonderful thing to do during this time of year, it is important to remember that people need connection and kindness 365 days a year.
So – to those men that I met today. I see you. You matter and I care.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving my dear friends and let’s keep spreading kindness whenever and wherever we can – one step at a time.
With Love and In Peace-