We began the morning preparing meals for the homeless in the DC Central Kitchen. Soup was made in large vats and would later be distributed to areas throughout the city, while “Student Cooks,” adult members of the community who intern at the kitchen to learn specific cooking skills for jobs later in life, prepared meals for the workers and volunteers in the kitchen.
Most of us spoke with other volunteers who had stories similar to our own – college students looking to give their time and effort to a worthy cause. However, such individuals were not the only groups of people present. Kind enough to share their stories, we found ourselves also speaking to members of the community – from dishwashers, to student cooks, to cooks employed by DC Central Kitchen. Matt later shared that he casually discussed football while working alongside a man who volunteered bits of his experience. One memorable comment was that this man truly loved his job.
Kait and Maggie also shared their conversation with one of the cooks. This particular man had become involved in illegal activities at a younger age and later found himself in jail. With a young daughter, he found the courage to improve his lifestyle so that he could be a better role model for his daughter and provide her with the care and affection she deserved. He’s held his job as a cook for quite a few years now and has reasonable yet high expectations for his daughter. He admitted to being somewhat of a health nut and was generous in supplying compliments to the girls for their accomplishment of being in college and doing well for themselves.
When it was finally time to eat the prepared lunch, all the volunteers and workers sat down together and simply talked. I spoke with one man who had been in the Army years earlier, traveled a lot, and later discovered a passion for cooking. Thanks to DC Central Kitchen, he is able to receive the necessary training and preparation in order to find a job in the real world. He spoke of his hopes, such as becoming a cook for the kitchen or getting an internship at the Marriott Hotel after he had finished his training.
The meal ended and we left, only to move on to our next adventure. ROJA is an after school program for children that focusses on anything from snack time, to homework help, to playtime. Each of us worked with one other student in the program. We were surprised to discover how well behaved the children were and agreed on the overall importance of discipline and respect. Personally, it was refreshing to see children who could follow directions, accomplish tasks, and work with others without unnecessary melodrama.
Working with young children, who can be so terribly impressionable, always makes me wonder about how I’m influencing them – or even if I’m influencing them at all. It’s difficult to judge the significance of what one is doing when it is so short-term, nonetheless, the only true failure would be not trying at all.