So for the past couple months Michael and I have been going to the homeless shelter in Boulder to prepare breakfast and dinner. I have always found service work rewarding and really appreciate the opportunity to connect with people who are having a difficult time.
The most recent experience at the shelter was a great opportunity for me because I was at the receiving end of 3 very disappointed patrons of the shelter. Normally when we prepare food, we had chosen the breakfast shift because not many people will get up at 4:30 to be at the shelter by 5:15 am so they are often in need of morning cooks. Breakfast is pretty easy and we make sure to put out as much good food as possible, utilizing whatever we can find in the walk-in and pantry. We are thoughtful in our preparation and always intend to give the best that is available. We have had people come up to us after the meal and thank us for our time or tell us that they could tell that we prepared the food with love. That is always so nice to hear.
This last time we volunteered was for a dinner meal that had been orchestrated by someone at the shelter. They had a meal plan and told us what we were to use and prepare. So we prepared the meal as instructed and I was on the front line dishing the main course. It was a very full house that night and since they never know how many people will show up, they do the best they can with making sure that there is enough for everyone.
On this night, we ran out of the main dinner. Shortly before we ran out, a man came up to me and said “what happened? Usually you guys take time to make a nice meal but this time you just threw everything together.” I didn’t bother explaining to him that I did not decide what to make or how to make it. Nor did I mention that meals are prepared based on what has been donated to the shelter.. The intended meal called for ground beef and since they didn’t have that, they used vegetarian patties crumbled up. So I could understand his comment about it all being thrown together but still, I was told that the meal tasted good.
Shortly after he told me that, we ran out of the main dinner. While a few people scrambled to put some stew on the stove, I stood in front of a group of people who were outraged that we had run out of food. When we were finally able to get the stew out and served, another man walked by, looked at the stew, then up at me and said “really?” as he walked away.
At the end of the night, 2 men came up to me and thanked me for being there and of course we don’t go there for the gratitude, we go there because we love to help and because we are compassionate about the difficulties people have. We just wanted to be of service. And while I personally received comment from 3 disgruntled individuals, I realize that no matter what my intentions are, there will still be those that will be negative or more difficult to please. It reminded me that I can do what I can do, but I cannot change the attitudes or perspectives of others. Nor do I need to let their negative feedback affect the positive things I choose to do. I can still be compassionate to a man that chooses to see the negative rather than the positive.
And despite the negative response, I will continue to serve at the shelter because it makes me feel like I’m doing a little something to give back.
Thank you Boulder County Shelter and staff, you are awesome and we appreciate all you do to serve those in need.