Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen

Layoffs Sabbaticals are full of triumph and tribulation. One day you feel like a superstar taking over the world, removing long put off tasks from your to do list….the next you’re in your uniform pajamas eating an entire bag of cinnamon toast crunch and wondering if things will ever be right again.

It was a cinnamon toast crunch kind of day when I decided I needed to do something for someone else. Hannah and I had done volunteer work before, but it’s challenging to find opportunities that allow kids her age. The few things that we had done together were one offs, not regular. I signed on to a volunteer web site to see what I could find.

Almost immediately, I found a great opportunity serving dinners on Christmas Eve at our local rescue mission. I thought it would be a great chance for Hannah to see that everyone’s lives aren’t easy and that it’s important to help where you can.

The email I got confirming our commitment said to be there at 9:00. There was some mumbling and grumbling that morning (not by me, of course), but we made it. We were waiting in the lobby with a few other people when a woman came out, welcomed us and told us we were early.

Well how early can we be? I thought.

Um, how about two and a half hours early. Yah.

The room was packed with volunteers when the coordinator began to assign tasks. It seemed to me that there were way too many volunteers for the number of vacant duties. But what did I know? I was sure they knew what they are doing.

Then we hung around. Patiently. Then not as patiently. Until 11:30 when it was finally time for everyone to come in and have Christmas lunch. Guests filed in and were immediately accosted by volunteers all trying to do their jobs.

Hannah and I had placemat duty. We both stood there waiting for our turn to help, but there were so many people there that we could barely see the tables we were supposed to be setting. More aggressive families moved about rapidly as we all “competed for placemat dominance” (Hannah’s words).

After about 20 minutes, it became clear to us that there was nothing for us to do there but be another 2 bodies crowding up the joint and loitering over the guests as they ate. It seemed better to me that we leave and ease some of the traffic and crowd that was surely taking away from the dining experience.

As we were walking back to our car, Hannah was talking about how she had been watching a mom with children and said, “I see homeless people in a whole new way. They’re just on a path that they may not have even chosen. But they’re just trying to live.” So I guess while we didn’t physically do much that day, my little girl’s already big heart was opened just a little more.


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