There's a crazy retired guy from my church named Darrell. But when I say "crazy," I mean that truly in a loving, awe-filled, I-respect-this-man-beyond-words-for-his-radical-ideas kind of way. I'm not saying he's Jesus, but, I think he and Jesus have a lot in common. They both like serving people. They both like challenging the status quo. They both like skipping the small talk, and diving right into the deep stuff. And they both balk at religion.
These are my kind of people.
I don't remember how I met Darrell or how I got onto his "Salt Shakers" email list, but a year or two ago I started getting these mass emails from him, asking for volunteers to serve food to the homeless. Beneath each plea was also a [long] paragraph or two of Darrell's recent thoughts about church/religion/living out faith. At first I thought, "what a weirdo!" Then, as I read more and more of his "crazy thoughts" (his own description), they grew on me. In fact, I started really looking forward to Darrell's writing, to the point that I'd drop everything I was doing to read his emails when they popped into my inbox. I knew his words would inspire me. I knew this one email, out of the hundreds of emails I would read in the day, carried with it the potential to change the way I encounter my world.
Monday morning this past week Darrell and I met for coffee and conversation, and I finally made a commitment to help at one of his monthly food-serving things. It's long been a[n overly romanticized] dream of mine to serve at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving; an otherwise boring and routine Thursday night in February isn't exactly Thanksgiving, but close enough. I've put this off long enough.
My week leading up to Thursday had been very stressful. The contractor at the desk next to mine was let go on Tuesday, and this sent me into an unwarranted minor panic attack about my own job security. (I say unwarranted, because I asked my boss if I needed to be worried, and he said "no") My "todo" list at work keeps growing - no chance of being bored anytime soon - and that got me stressing out with worry (though again, unwarranted - my coworker Wendy reassured me I had my priorities set correctly and was exceeding their expectations). And the casting company was hired to book some extras for a commercial next week, as well as host auditions, and then the online software had a major bug and things weren't working and the friend I was going to hire to help with booking people got sick so I had to do ALL THE THINGS myself and did I mention I'm terrified of failure and disappointing people?
By Thursday evening I was frazzled, albeit on the mend, but still, frazzled.
Time for a perspective check.
Darrell had gathered a dozen or so people to help, and for most of us this was our first time serving. We gloved up, put on some adorable hairnets and plastic aprons (hint: "adorable" in this context means "not actually all that attractive"), and then the doors opened and I found myself scooping hot dish onto trays and giving them to the homeless people walking by on the other side of the serving table.
To be cliché, I feel like I got more out of the experience than I gave. Let's see: my biggest problems are that I'm over-employed, have an active social life, and ... why exactly was I complaining again? It's hard to pay attention to my own first-world, upper-class problems, while looking into the eyes of a man, woman, or child, who will be sleeping in a shelter tonight.
My calming change in perspective may have been short lived (blog post coming soon about the emotional turmoil of Friday), but for that short period of time, I felt much more at ease with my "issues." I told Darrell to count me in for next time.