I had my second shift in the kitchen at Grand Central Neighbors, yesterday. This time, I was the only volunteer there. Handed out napkins and forks, served food, passed out drinks, and cleaned the kitchen afterward. Also got a chance to chat with the cook, Leo. He's been a line cook his whole career and wants to finish culinary school. I was impressed because he told me that whenever possible he tries to give the people at the kitchen food made from scratch and not the pre-made stuff that gets donated by City Harvest and the other food banks. He's an interesting fellow and had some great advice for me.
I also noticed something about the recipients of the food. Some of them came through with a smile and were truly appreciative of the chance for a hot meal. I liked them. One woman came up after she finished eating and thanked Leo for taking the time to make a delicious meal. I loved her gratitude. Not everyone has it. A few people came through and refused the food because they didn't like how it looked or didn't want what was served. Some took what was offered and threw it away after a few bites or begged for something else to eat. Can't please everyone. One person struck me completely though. Came in with Ralph Lauren sunglasses, an expensive phone and clothes, pricey watch and jewelry, but took the food and, despite not liking it, ate it anyway. What contradictions of life lead someone to be unable to afford a meal but able to afford keeping up appearances? It makes me wonder what this person has gone through that have lead them to this path. And how many people in the city are like him, that on the outside appear to be doing really well, living the good life, but who go home to empty refrigerators in bad apartments, if they're even lucky enough to have apartments of their own. And why have we, as a community decided it's ok to let people live without basic necessities?
I'm going back to the kitchen Friday for another dinner shift. Looking forward to it. Being there makes me appreciate what I have.