Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Helpings with your own two hands

In January when Haiti was hit with the massive earthquake that killed thousands and destroyed many more people's worlds, my daughter Lindsey was personally impacted by the media coverage of the tragedy. Any time she watched a snippet of the news she would comment on how sad she was for the people of Haiti and how she wished she could help.

Eventually she saw the messages to text a donation to Haiti, which we did, and she felt good about helping them -- for a while. Two days after we texted the donation she asked when our money was going to make a difference, because she was still seeing video of families suffering and of children dying. If you think 20-year-olds today want instant gratification, you haven't talked to any 6-year-olds lately.

So I told her that while we couldn't go to Haiti ourselves to help them, we COULD do something for all the people here in Minnesota who don't have enough to eat, by volunteering to help serve a meal at a local Loaves & Fishes site. A friend of mine organized the volunteer efforts to serve dinner to people who are what Feeding America calls "food insecure," meaning people who are struggling to put food on their table. At Loaves & Fishes you don't have to be on welfare, you don't have to be unemployed, you can just show up and eat, no questions asked. We signed up and last night we served the dinner.

We arrived about 15 minutes after they had begun serving the dinner meal. We put on plastic aprons, hairnets and gloves and got to work. First Lindsey got to dish out pudding -- after a while she handed out bananas while I served up salad. She had a smile on her face and loved every minute of the experience. She got to see people from all walks of life -- families with young children, elderly people and homeless people. She smiled at every one and took their comments in stride, when they told her how nice it was to see such a young person there helping out. She even spoke to a few, an amazing feat if you knew how shy my little child is.

Afterwards we took off our temporary gear and she skipped out with me, wanting to know when we could do it again. So now we're on the rotation -- we'll be there every month, helping to serve food to those who might not have eaten had it not been for us.

I am continually amazed at how big Lindsey's heart is. She has taught me so much about what it means to be caring and charitable. I typically am one to be philanthropic from a distance -- I'll help raise the money, someone else can go do the mission. Except for my trip to Honduras, I have had rare opportunities to speak directly to those who are helped by charities, and to be honest have had little desire to do so. Perhaps it's because I feel so deeply for them, I have a heard time hearing about their plights without putting myself in their shoes. Lindsey seems to embrace this, though, and instead of getting wrapped up in how hopeless a situation may seem, she involves herself in how to make it less hopeless.

As a child I was never charitable in the same way she is. I am so proud of her and cannot wait to see what she's going to do as she grows up.

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