Last winter I was watching the evening news. For the record I reside in the greater New York area and around these parts we love us our NY Yankees. Perennial winners and God knows everybody like a winner. It was close to Thanksgiving and the local news was doing a story on several members of the team, I don’t remember which ones. But these gentleman were doing their duty as role-models and good citizens, which is to say that just because they now have multi-million dollar contracts to play baseball they like to show the world at large that they haven’t forgotten their roots, they haven’t forgotten the little people who aren’t blessed with a 90 mph fastball or the ability to hit a baseball 450 feet over a fence.
And so there they are at a downtown New York City soup-kitchen, chef hats on, standing behind the counter ladling out soup, turkey, stuffing, the works while photographers from every local newspaper snapped pictures and sportswriters were jockeying for position, sticking microphones in their faces trying to get a word or two about how it feels to be here on Thanksgiving doing their part to feed the unidentified homeless people. It was a great photo-op, a great five minute story and we all walked away feeling good about ourselves.
I wonder how the nameless and faceless people who take their meals in a soup-kitchen feel about these photo-ops. I wonder if anyone ever bothered to ask them. Do they feel blessed to have a big, baseball star ladling soup into their bowls? Is this something they’ll tell their grandchildren someday? Do they even know their grandchildren? Does their family even know they’re out there taking their meals in a soup-kitchen because they have nowhere else to go?
I just finished reading a blog entry posted on my local town’s blog. It was written by a woman who has a few times volunteered at the local soup kitchen in the next town over. And she talked about all the wonderful people that were volunteering their time, she spoke of the great conversations she had and how blessed she felt to have met her new volunteer friends and she talked about how downright fulfilling an experience it was for she and her fellow volunteers.
And it got me thinking the same thing… I wonder if anyone ever thought to ask the people who actually take their meals at this soup kitchen if they feel fulfilled by having her there ladling soup into their bowls. I wonder if they feel blessed to have the opportunity to meet their newfound homeless friends who are also taking their meals at a soup kitchen.
Is that why we do this? Volunteer our time? So we can feel fulfilled? And does she then go home at night feeling fulfilled because she had dumped a couple of baked potatoes on a couple of plates for some guy who hasn’t showered in probably a week. No money, no job, mental illness and lice and sleeping on a subway grate with a box for a blanket.
I probably sound incredibly holier-than-thou right now and I honestly don’t mean to. My question is sincere and I don’t know how to express my point of view another way. My goal is not to blast this woman, I guess I just wonder why we always only think about our own fulfillment and leave the dirty part out of the story.