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I walked into the dark, cold entrance of the soup kitchen once again.
It looked the same as always. Off-white, dirty walls, long tables, metal fold-up chairs, and an odd odor you can’t really put your finger on. I looked around and all I saw was pain. Misery and pain. I got in line. Slowly, I made it to the front. The young girl who was serving food was happy. She had her whole life in front of her. Nothing like anyone here.
I felt bad for the little kids here. They had hope. False hope. When you start here, you end here. That’s what happened to me.
As the girl served me my soup, I stared right into her eyes. I couldn’t see anything bad in her eyes. I can tell when somebody has done something bad. The fact that I couldn’t see anything bad in her eyes didn’t surprise me, though. All the young girls who volunteer here are straight-A students who come here and every other stupid shelter I have ever gone to just to get into a good college. Even though they all probably thought we were criminals who spend all the money we have ever gotten on drugs, I still liked them better than the managers who treat you like s***.
“Here you go,” one of them says cheerfully, but a little nervously at the same time.
“Thank you,” I said with slight enthusiasm.
These young girls made me laugh. Not when they tried to tell their dumb jokes, but when I saw them walk in with their “Community Service” sheets under their arms, and their families hugging them good-bye.
“We’ll see you in 2 hours,” their families said as they nervously wave good-bye. What a load of s***. What do they think is going to happen to them here?
Most of the kids come here with their families, but some, I guess the older ones, drive themselves. But, all of them seem scared.
After I got my food, I sat down on an old, wobbly metal chair. I started eating. It tasted fine to me. I am used to it by now.
The door squeaked open, and a girl who looked to be about 14 walked in. I looked for her family. But, they weren’t there. Then, I looked for a car. But, I didn’t see any new ones in the lot. She must have walked or taken the bus. That surprised me. She looked like the kind of person who could get a ride. She wore nice jeans and a T-shirt from San Francisco.
I have never seen her before. I watched her. She went back to the kitchen to sign in. She had no papers with her. No community service forms, no family or car. Is this person actually doing something just to be nice and helpful? Are there people in this world like that?
Then, she started serving. She seemed so nice that it was hard for me to understand why she was here. Do I stereotype all of them, just like they stereotype me?
Fifteen minutes later, one of the other girls walked in the door with a folder that said “Community Service” on it. She had beautiful brown hair, was tall, and had her mom standing outside to make sure everything was okay. Again, this made me laugh.
When I finished my meal, I went up to the counter. I gave my tray to the girl with no papers. She smiled and said, “Thank you.” She said it in a tone that was so real. It wasn’t fake, it… it just felt like she cared. I don’t get that much… especially here.
“You’re welcome,” I replied, trying to respond in the same tone she used with me. But, I know my tone was not the same. But, she could tell that I tried.
She smiled. Then I left through the same squeaky doors I entered an hour before, and unfortunately will enter many more times again.