What else is a lapsed Buddhist to do on an Easter Friday but spend the afternoon over at Union Gospel Mission serving Easter dinners?
Usually I’ve worked on the steam line in the kitchen at these things, but today I was out front – one of the setup crew doing place settings, stacking out cups, serving pie a la mode and handing out buns. Tom was a juice server, and our friend Steve who joined us helped serve the roast turkey dinners.
We were shift number two. It was a frantic three hours, then another shift of twenty or so volunteers arrived and took over in mid-service. Matthew, my replacement, looked a little dazed as I handed him my tray and shouted instructions over the din, but then he was off to set six places at a newly cleaned table and the pace continued smoothly behind us as we left the dining room.
There is an urgency to the entire process that is driven by a line of people that extends all the way around the building, sometimes for blocks, even in a freezing rain. Today it was sunny though, so everyone was in a good mood and spirits were boisterous and friendly and very appreciative.
It’s an extremely rewarding experience, reinforcing the fact that it’s impossible to overestimate the need or their success in mobilizing the community to meet it. Some of my highest admiration goes to Randy, head chef, who manages to turn out an amazing holiday meal with all the trimmings for several thousand in a crowded kitchen with limited storage space. But he has a crackerjack staff and they cook for ten days to make it happen.
If you ever want to watch teamwork in action, head down to UGM to see how their staff run the logistics of these holiday meals and the volunteers that serve them.
To round out what’s been a very Good Friday, we’re watching Bill Maher’s documentary on world religions tonight – Religulous. Tomorrow I’ll be at the Vaisakhi Parade near Main and 50th from noon onwards.