Are You Satisfied with the Life You’re Living

Published Date: March 26th, 2009
Category: Weekly Thought


“Do you go to this church?” I asked him.


“This is my church,” he answered me, as he loaded food-encrusted plates into the church’s industrial dishwasher.


I nodded, fully understanding. There is nothing more communal or giving than helping feed the homeless and disadvantaged. One does not need to sit through a sixty-minute service or donate 10% of your salary to feel Christian or spiritual or righteous. Instead, you can roll up your sleeves, cut up carrots, and provide food and understanding to those who need it.


I had not volunteered at a soup kitchen for many years. Once I became pregnant and became a working parent, spending time away from my own child to help others did not seem justified. But now that I am not rushing from work to daycare, spending a few hours away from G in order to help others seems warranted.


Last night I encountered someone I had not encountered during my previous years volunteering at the Dignity Diner—a child. And a young child. She must have been between three and four years old. As soon as I saw her, my heart seemed to fill my chest to maximum capacity and the tears immediately started welling up into my eyes. I rushed over to her, just wanting to make this experience as non-threatening as possible and knelt down, asking her if she wanted juice. She silently nodded, her big, brown eyes holding silent tears and I filled her glass, gave her a smile, patted her back, and quickly rushed off to get her some food. And so she did not see my own tears.


They came anyway, as the nice man I had previously been talking to asked me how I was doing volunteering on my first day. That’s all it took and I started crying as I turned away from our guests so no one would see me.


And all I could think is “How dare I have the audacity to cry for this child? This child who is bravely sitting there, patiently waiting for her food. If she can keep it together, then I certainly should be able to.”


But I honestly could not. Maybe it is because I am a mother and the thought of my own child going hungry and without a home is so soul-killing to me, I could not contain myself. Or maybe it is because all I could keep thinking is, “But she’s just a CHILD. She’s done nothing wrong.” She didn’t become addicted to drugs or alcohol or loose her job or start a life of crime. She was just born. And because she was born into the wrong family, she is sitting at a soup kitchen on a Wednesday night, waiting for her food, wondering where she will sleep that night.


Needless to say, I spent the rest of the night making sure she had whatever she needed, insuring that her grandmother had extra food to take with them wherever they went. I watched her walk off with her grandmother and it took every bone in my body not to run over to her, scoop her up, and just take her home. I look at children like her and get so frustrated with the adoption process we are going through—I naively think “why can’t I just be her mother?”


The adult in me understands the laws and procedures and possible family ties, but the child in me sees a child in need, and I just want to help. But I cannot. And it kills me.


As I sat in my car that night and gathered my thoughts and my emotions, I realized that yes, I had helped people that night. But that little girl had helped reaffirm that we are so lucky to have a home and food and a stable environment for our child. And every time I become wrapped up in our economy or my lack of professional or personal success, I will remember her image and realize I am satisfied with the life I am living.




This entry was posted on Thursday, March 26th, 2009 at 1:59 pm and is filed under Weekly Thought. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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