Friday, February 26, 2010

Lenten Service

Lent is not just about giving something up. According to the Catholic beliefs, during Lent, one should practice self-denial (classic examples - meat on Fridays and the fact that I can't have pizza right now), almsgiving, and giving of oneself. It just so happened I did both the first and last in one fell swoop today.

My school has a relationship with an organization called So Others Might Eat (SOME). Every Friday during the school year, 10 seniors and a teacher volunteer time to serve breakfast and lunch to anyone who needs it. SOME's mission and philosophy is actually very fascinating. Their motto is "restoring hope and dignity one person at a time," and they really do see it through. There are a handful of full-time staff in the dining area and many, many volunteers. Each person is greeted with a hot meal, a smile, and "hello sir (ma'am)." The actual greeting isn't scripted or required, but that's how they operate. I served 310 people lunch today and probably served about 400 people breakfast.

Beyond serving meals to anyone (yes, anyone) who walks in the door, SOME provides showers, clothing, medical care, dental care, mental health care, job training, parenting classes, and housing for a number of types of people.

Serving today really made me remember how lucky I am, and how small things can really make a difference in the world. As a part of our service, we did a budgeting activity looking at the budget of a single mother of two who just lost her job and went on Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF). It really opened my eyes to the impossibility of living on aid. I've often heard people rail against TANF (which is pretty much welfare) because they think that these people just sit around and enjoy the high life. Let me tell you - it's no where NEAR a living stipend.

Today, I just want to acknowledge that there are places out there that really do good for other human beings. And they rely on us to keep them operational. While SOME only exists in DC, there are people all over the world that need our help.

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