Two days ago, I was asked if I would like to join the United Way for a tour of the agencies they work with. It would be an all day trek, and I had a particularly busy day, but I knew I'd be able to get the more important stuff out the way by around noon. So I told my boss that I'd be able to make at least some of them after that if that was ok.
So without getting into a lot of details, I spent the rest of my day touring a few of the local agencies in town.
The first two locations we went to were fine organizations, one of which is for lack of a better term a halfway house and the second one helps place people in jobs that may have certain difficulties attaining gainful employment, and the last was Manna House.
Manna House was a tough, yet rewarding visit. We got there and took a tour of the facility to get an idea of how things worked there and I was blown away at how this place takes care of the community.
First off, let me get this out of the way. I've spent times at food banks, soup kitchens, etc....in my 22 years of working in radio. Most of them fill a great need, but are generally very by the numbers, get in and get out. Hot meal for you, that's it. Not saying there's anything wrong with that, there isn't, but Manna House was very different here.
This place is not just about feeding people who need it, it's about caring about humanity. Everything from groceries, hot meals, toiletries, it's all there to help take care of the less fortunate and it's amazing how they do this day after day. It's also unfortunate that the need is so great, but it is.
Yesterday, when I arrived they told us we'd be serving the guests who were lined up when we got there at 2:30pm. The location doesn't open until 4, but there was already a long line formed.
By 2:45 it started pouring down rain, so they decided to let everyone in. So we got to work. I worked the dessert line. I was told to make sure everyone who wanted one get a dessert. It's important that some of these folks have sugar and carbs to help keep up energy, and a little sugar can also go a long way when it comes to just putting a smile on their faces and providing a little normalcy in their lives.
I talked to a lot of the people coming through the line. Mostly chit chat about the weather, the rain, the heat, the college football teams they were getting excited about.
It was after my first 30 minutes of serving that I spotted a little girl. She was SOOOO excited to grab a little baggy of cookies. Her smile was a million dollar smile. It melted my heart and at the same time stung a lot. Then a few more kids came in, and then even more. All of them with parents or grandparents. most of them seemed pretty oblivious to the situation they were in, grinning and having a good time, their parents doing their best to have fun and keep up their spirits.
Then there were a few kids who you could see in their faces they've been through some rough stuff. When I asked if they wanted a piece of cake or some cookies they usually looked at what was available and either grabbed something or didn't. They'd crack a smile and I was so warmed by that because who knows what kind of situation they'd be heading back into when they walked out those doors. This little morsel of sugar, despite how little it may be, how short of a time it would last gave them a little respite I hoped.
How often have you or I just reached into our cupboards or pantry and grabbed a cookie mindlessly and just tossed it back, or nibbled on it slowly with a cup of coffee while reading something on our smart phones in our air conditioned homes, with the TV blaring in the background. Not even thinking of the fact, that one little cookie is the same thing that could make a child's day, or week even.
It's amazing what we take for granted isn't it.
This is a great and very caring community. I saw evidence of that yesterday and all since I've been here. Monetary donations to great places like these are awesome and thank you all for donating who do donate, but I encourage all of you, if you have the means please take a little time to make a connection with some of the places and people who need some shoulders to lean on. Sometimes all it takes just to make a difference is a smile and a bag of cookies.