In the words of CBM tax practice director, Richard Morris….
I didn’t know that December 3 was Giving Tuesday when I volunteered to help St Peter’s parish in Olney serve the noon meal at So Others Might Eat in Washington, D.C. but I did know it was the 493rd straight month my parish had done so.* While I’d been making a pot of chili and freezing it 11 or 12 times a year for SOME for 20+ years, I’d never helped gather it, transport it or serve it. Pre-dawn on the first Tuesday of each month I’d dutifully leave the frozen foil tray full of chili at the designated spot at church and fellow parishioners would collect it all and serve it at SOME later that day.
That cold morning last December, we delivered almost 300 aluminum foil trays worth of chili, dozens of cans of green beans and packages and packages of cookies to SOME’s facility in Northwest. The frozen blocks of chili are first heated in enormous 450-degree ovens while vats of green beans cook on an ancient iron stove.
We then served almost 300 nutritious lunches of chili, beans, fresh bread and cookies cafeteria style in 2 seatings. There is a certain discipline in moving hundreds of people through the line, cleaning up after them and then doing it again for the next seating. It took me about 10 minutes too long of trying to fill side plates and move them along to realize I should take the plate with my left hand, add the cookies and bread with my right, and pass it on to keep the line moving. Hostess Lynette made sure we all knew how to run a good kitchen.
Coincidentally, the leader of the DeMatha high school volunteers who were also helping serve and clean up, was an un-related Erin Morris who had taught 2 of my older children in elementary school! Her students did their school proud as they energetically and enthusiastically served, swept up and did whatever they were asked – like take out the trash.
While still serving a bit more than half of the 600+ meals it once served in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s in an un-gentrified area of the city, SOME is a place of joy as the clientele is truly grateful and workers are clearly mission-driven to serve. One man was playing away on an old battered piano (‘he always does this”) before he ate because that was his way of paying for his meal. Sometimes we lose track of the less fortunate residents in some sectors of the city as we live and work in the parts of town that have construction cranes and gleaming new towers surrounding us.
I still have my beardnet (“sir, YOU don’t need a hairnet”) to remind me not to wait 30 years to do it again.
* Yes that made it the first delivery of the 42nd year!
To learn more about So Others Might Eat, visit https://www.some.org.