Feed the Hungry

January 18, 2011
I was at a homeless park surrounded by fifty or more rugged, poor, and starving men with outstretched hands crowding the front of my stand. I tried to figure out a way to pleasantly ask these men to form a single file line. The only words that came to mind was “there’s enough for everybody.” As those words left my mouth two men began brawling throwing punches like Mohammad Ali and Joe Frasier. My youth minister jumped between the fighters and put a halt to their madness.

Working with the homeless can be tough when they fear the food being offered to them is limited. Fights, arguments, and cutting in line are common sights when Royal Palms Baptist Church goes to the nearby homeless park to feed the people sandwiches. We call this event “Feed the Hungry.” I never thought I would enjoy spending a Saturday morning making ham and cheese sandwiches in a park. Although it would be fun playing Xbox 360, there’s nothing better than knowing your actions are the reason why so many people who have nothing are smiling in a homeless park.

I never really jumped up and down at the thought of feeding homeless people. At first, my youth minister would drag me along saying it would make me feel better to serve the community. I figured I would at least try it out mainly because it would be hard to tell him no. The first Saturday at the park was a new adventure for me. I never been to this park even though it was only 15 to 20 minutes away from my house. My team was given a long list of what we would need to do. It turns out making 200 sandwiches is not a rudimentary task. The homeless men would also need a tasty beverage to wash down their sandwiches. We formed working lines like a factory and prepared delicious ham and cheese sandwiches that jumped off the plates. The next part included making Gatorade mix in six five-gallon coolers. It was a lot of Gatorade and took a long time to prepare.

After making the lunch, I was appointed to the round-up job. When I was told it would be my duty to talk to the people sweat slowly slipped down my face. My neck tightened up and images of these scary people yelling at me and possibly hurting me raced through my mind. The majority of the homeless were snoozing on the benches and under the trees. I didn’t know if it would be a good idea to wake them up. Others had a sour dirty laundry stench that burned my nostrils. I found myself spinning in circles trying to find someone I could offer lunch to. When my youth minister asked me what was wrong, I explained that a shiver ran up my spine at the thought of confronting the people. After being convinced I would be safe, I got to work. “Hello there would you like some food we have sandwiches and Gatorade, it’s free.” That was the line I used all day to draw in the crowd. Within ten minutes the whole park was in line receiving sandwiches. “God bless you” rolled off the tongues of every homeless person.

Watching those people smile, bite into sandwiches, and gulp the Gatorade warmed my heart. Their smiles rubbed off their faces and onto mine. Knowing that my time was used to make someone’s day more hopeful inspired me to feed the hungry the following weekend. I began looking forward to Saturdays and making sandwiches. Most of the people I fed the first day were at the park and ready for our team to serve them lunch again. Soon little hellos turned into conversations and I was looking forward to talking to the people I viewed as strangers a few weeks ago. I heard many stories that changed my opinions of homeless people. Allowing these people to open up to me showed me how life can be taken for granted. The homeless people you see sleeping in parks, alleys, and on the side of grocery stores all have a story to tell. I met former war veterans, people who lost their families in car accidents, and all types of people in other tough situations. Not every homeless person is dangerous or mean that’s a stereotype made by people who don’t bother to talk to them and get to know the truth. The majority of the people I became acquainted with were friendly. Other homeless people are just afraid to open up to society because the discrimination they are pressed with forces them to form their own bubble excluded from everyone else.

Utilizing my time to serve the community is on the top of my list when planning my summer and weekends. There is nothing more important to me than making people happy. Through feeding homeless people I’ve discovered that the lower classes of people are no different than me. Every time I serve the community I’m always rewarded with a much bigger gift than a material gift. Receiving a thank you and a smile reminds me that what I’m doing is the right thing to do and that my time is appreciated.

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