Actually, I take that back. I THOUGHT I was going to serve food to homeless people. Exchanging quick pleasantries while I stood a respectable distance away spooning Mexican casserole onto their plates. A table safely in between us as God jotted down some notes to get me on the fast track to golden town.
What I learned at our orientation was that each of the 10 volunteers would each be assigned to a table where we would sit with 8 people. We were supposed to actually talk to them. And eat with them.
What if one of them touched me. Eww.
The coordinator started giving some simple instructions for what to do, oh say if someone started stuffing casserole down their pants, or, I don't know... someone had a complete mental fucking episode.
I looked around and planned my escape. They were super short handed and I had conned my sister-in-law Vicki to come with me and right before the doors opened she made a break for the restroom. I thought that was the last time I would ever see her. It was too late. Before I knew what was happening they descended. 142 people in need of a meal.
The first group through the door was a flock of kids who made a beeline right for me. And by 'me' I mean the plate of cake sitting in front of me that I was trying to shove into my purse and take with me on my escape.
"Can we have some cake?" They all chimed in unison.
"Well, let's try to eat a few bites of dinner first and then you can have some cake," I said as I put plates of not cake food in front of them.
They all looked down and started picking.
The littlest one was two. About the same age as my kids. She struggled with her fork in the same way my kids do. I felt a lump start forming in the back of my throat.
"I don't like tomatoes," one of the little girls looked at me and whispered.
"Yeah tomatoes are nasty as hell. Here's some cake! Have as much as you can fit into your little mouths. Let's go HAM on this shit. And I think I saw some cookies around here somewhere," I said, running to another table and yanking a cookie from an old man's hand as he was about to put it in his mouth.
"What else do you guys want? I'll give you anything you want."
They looked at me with big doe eyes as they shoveled cake into their mouths. "More cake!" They all said, chewed up chocolate spewing out of their stuffed little mouths.
I ran frantically around the room, grabbing every piece of cake I could get my hands on and stuffed those little sweeties so full of cake they had diabetes by bedtime. At one point I looked over and noticed their Mom at the table behind us with a few of her other kids, looking at me wide eyed and open mouthed, wondering what the hell she ever did to me to give her kids so much sugar she's going to have to peel them off the ceiling fan.
I didn't care. I would have dressed up in a chicken suit and ran around the parking lot if it made those sweet little kids happy.
I looked up and noticed Vicki had been cornered by a drunken googley eyed man asking for her phone number. They always say you'll meet the love of your life when you least expect it so I decided to let her ride it out and see what happened.
The hour flew by as the kids told me about their school, their friends and how much they love Hannah Montana. It wasn't that different from dinner conversation at my own house. I know it sounds hokey but I walked out of that place a changed woman.
And so did Vicki. I don't want to jinx it but I think I saw her Googling "cute nursery ideas for shopping carts" once we got home.
If you're interested in volunteering, donating food to the food pantry, helping with job searches, donating clothing or making a meal for their weekly Sunday night dinners, click here.
There's free cake.