Restos du Coeurs

For a few weeks now Sanan and I have been participating on a team that every Tuesday night provides a pretty good hot meal for about 100 people. The meal usually includes bread, soup, vegetable, meat, dessert, milk and coffee. Not bad. Each night I’ve walked away with one word on my mind – “touched”.

I’m touched by the French volunteers that work along side me. Many of them have been doing this for 4-6 years. Some are new like us. I am touched by their motivation to do this week after week. No one makes them do it, and they can quit anytime they want. Their motivation seems to be very simple – it comes from that part of humanity that you hope is still around, the goodness of one human being doing something simple to help another human being that’s struggling.

I’m also touched by the beautiful people who pass through our line each Tuesday night. In each face there is an untold story…(well, some will tell you their story whether you want to hear it or not). These fellow human beings have just simply fallen through the cracks. For various reasons they don’t fit well into the normal world that most of us take for granted each day. I grew up around those whose solution for people like this generally well into the the “get-a-job” category. But as I look these souls in the eye and hand them a cup of coffee, I realize it is not that simple.

Some are obviously immigrants, perhaps with out the papers for official work, or without the language skills, or perhaps without necessary skills. Sure, one could say “go back to your country” but how do we know what awful conditions they left to make it here.

Some are just old and lonely. They don’t fit into the work place any longer and their fixed incomes don’t stretch as much as they need it to. Their friends have died and their kids have moved away.

Some of those who pass before me have mental health issues, ticks and other bizarre behaviors. Sure, it is nice to see mentally handicapped people in the work force from time to time but unfortunately this is the exception rather than the rule. “Getting a job” and keeping a job is probably not a reality for most of these.

Even after two weeks I can say with certainty that volunteering on a regular basis is as much a benefit to me as it is to the people I help. I recently read a new book by a friend, The Generous Soul and as I reflected on the obvious theme of the book, I realized that although the soul could be naturally generous, we need to give it practice. That’s what I’m doing on Tuesday night – allowing my soul to practice what it really wants to do.