Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Lesson In Humility

I worked at a soup kitchen tonight.  I used to be kind of a regular in helping out, but somehow it petered out and I didn't go for a few years.  I had gotten involved because of a lady I know through church, and on Sunday she and I were talking about what passions I have that I could use to get involved at church.  The first thing that came to mind was music, since I've played piano quite a bit in church.  But I knew that if I committed to music it would feel like a chore- time spent learning and practicing music that I may or may not like and having to play it in front of people when I'd honestly rather be reading my book.  So instead of music, I decided that how I really wanted to serve was through food.  

Fast forward a few days and it's the third Thursday of the month- the day my church friend is in charge of the soup kitchen at another local church.  To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to it a whole lot.  I got to the church a minute early and sat in my car while 104.1 played "How To Save A Life".  Then I redid my ponytail a few times and decided to go inside.  

The thing about cooking at the soup kitchen is that you're cooking for upwards of fifty or sixty people.  It's not something I know how to do, and I was glad just to see how everything went on.  Tonight's menu was chili over rice, buttered bread, corn, green salad, fruit salad, and dessert.  The beans for the chili were soaked last night, but most of the real prep went on between 3:30 and 5:30 this afternoon.  It's unbelievable how much (good) food can be prepared in that amount of time.  If my limit were two hours, I'd be lucky to get a main dish, a salad, and a dessert on the table.  Much less seven different dishes (with variations on the chili).

I started out putting the right amount of beans, beef, and sauce in deep trays for the chili.  It was fine, but to be honest I was a little nervous to begin with and the responsibility of actually assembling the main dish wasn't what I wanted to start with.  It wasn't even a hard job.  Maybe I'm a wimp.  But when I got told to sauté onions, peppers, and mushrooms, I was more than happy to do it.  Tell me to sauté anything and I'm a happy camper.

I did a few other odd jobs (cutting sweets, seasoning chili, etc) and most of it was very comfortable.  But there were times I was corrected.  I was shown how to do something more efficiently or just plain better. And in all honesty, I don't love to be told I'm doing something wrong.  I can accept criticism, but I usually don't want to.  And I know it's something I'll have to learn how to do better, especially if I want to go to medical school someday.  So I decided that tonight was a good night to start- because learning how to be efficient in working with a team and prepping food for for sixty people isn't something I know how to do.  It's not easy, and the people who do it week after week are awesome.  

So tonight was truly a lesson in humility.  I helped prepare lots of food and then I helped serve it to people I probably wouldn't have thought twice about if I walked by them on the street.  And then- maybe the best part of the lesson- I ate with them.  We ate chili together and talked about all kinds of things.  And it served as a reminder that people are drawn together by food.  Simply eating with others is a communion that I know I often forget about.  

I was lucky to be able to go to the soup kitchen tonight- to help make food, to learn how to be taught, and to serve the people who came to eat (and let me tell you, there are some pretty chill people who come).  I don't know if cooking for sixty will ever come naturally to me, but I know it will get easier.  And I know where I'll be next Thursday.

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