Thursday, December 24, 2009

Twas the Night Before Christmas...and I couldn't find a place to volunteer

It's Christmas Eve and I can't seem to locate a soup kitchen.

For the first time in several years, we're not planning to go to my mom-in-law's for Christmas.  She fell down, got a hairline fracture on her wrist and "her house isn't clean enough" for us to come visit.  "Really Mom, we can cook for you."  "If you need help cleaning, well, what are daughter-in-laws for?"  Deaf ears.  Quantum says it's an old-fashioned Midwest thing.  Or maybe it's a "haven't gotten used to having a daughter-in-law yet" thing.   

In my family, if someone needs help (assuming the rest of us are in driving range, which we aren't any more) the tribe shows up and does what has to be done.  Holidays were boisterous events where everyone crowded into the kitchen and got in each other's way cooking. 

So anyway, since we aren't making it to the mom-in-law's, I thought we should go volunteer at a soup kitchen.  This isn't the first time I've tried this.  Thanksgiving before this one, I tried to do the same thing.  Couldn't FIND a bleeping place to go volunteer. 
Now I don't know if it's just my town or what.  They're trying all they possibly can to hide the homeless folks.  In fact there was a group that was feeding people in the local parks and the city council started coming up with all sorts of crazy rules - things like you can't feed more than 25 people, you have to change parks every week, and so on.  Orlando FL is a big tourist place, and gods forbid we let the tourists know we have homeless.  Fortunately, the ACLU has jumped on it, and they seem to be winning.

I thought about buying food, and contacted the place that feeds folks in the park.  They still haven't gotten in touch with me...since November 2008. 

I don't belong to a local church - maybe I'd know of one then. 

I looked at the phone book.  A couple food banks, but not a single soup kitchen listed.

Now I've got internet, a telephone, and all that.  If I can't locate a soup kitchen, how on earth do the homeless folks find one?

You'd think, in our troubled economy, that soup kitchens would be doing all they could to let folks know that they need volunteers, need food donations, need money.  Yet the only time I ever HEAR of a soup kitchen is some feel-good news mention on the holidays--and of course that's always after the fact, when it's too late for me to bring food or help.

Called the local TV station.  Well, they're not open.  So much for asking them.  Radio station, same deal.

As I'm writing this, I'm on the phone, trying to find somebody to let me know where I can be helpful.

The Salvation Army says the only people feeding folks tomorrow is the Coallition for the Homeless.  The ONLY people?  In this huge city?

Then I get the number of a very lovely man named Rich.  He says, "listen, don't worry about finding a place to volunteer.  Instead, find some folks in your neighborhood.  Buy them a meal, bring them some clean socks, underwear, give them an extra coat."

Good plan.  I've done that before but I sort-of wanted to do something more.  But according to Rich, (who used to be homeless, and now works at a rescue mission) that sort of "personal touch" might actually make more of a difference to someone.  So I'm off to the local department store tomorrow to pick up some socks and stuff, and I'll see who's hanging out in the back alleys of our town.

Blessings to you, my hopes for peace on Earth and may you have goodwill to all mankind.

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