I woke up yesterday to a damp and more-than-a-little dreary Saturday morning, and my mood reflected the seeming melancholy of the day. I had absolutely no desire to get out of bed at 7 a.m., and even less interest in driving through the series of miniature wading pools dotting the roads and highways between Burbank and Vernon. But, sigh ... I had made a commitment (what on Earth was I thinking) to head up the Sunday Assembly crew's participation in distributing food to the hungry with the L.A. Regional Food Bank, and by uh ... God, I wasn't going to welsh.
I arrived at the food bank by 8:15, with legal waiver in hand, sporting my disheveled Sunday Assembly L.A. T-shirt, my eyes scanning the giant warehouse for anything resembling coffee. At that early hour the facility was filling up fast with high school kids and college kids wearing colorful sorority and fraternity sweatshirts and T-shirts. The kids were spirited and relaxed with each other, and I quickly learned, after speaking with a soft-spoken high school junior, that these kids were required to be here. Apparently community service is now pedagogy. I smiled to myself and couldn't help but to notice that my determination to be "grouchy" today was lifting.
Within minutes I was joined by Josh and Kendall Williams, a delightful and down-to-earth couple and fellow members of the Sunday Assembly L.A. family, and perhaps despite myself, I'd somehow moved from sulky to spirited in a "nano." I mean here were these bright-eyed, friendly folks who traveled just as far as I had (we discovered we were neighbors) and they were anything but glum.
The next few hours were transformative, as we all got into action, sorting boxes of milk, cans of chili and bags of rice and pasta, elbow to elbow with all ages - from giggling and slightly insecure teens to their mothers and fathers, working with them side-by-side. We all worked hard to the tempo of top-40 tunes blasting through the overhead speakers and bouncing off of the reverberatory warehouse walls. Within 3 1/2 hours, our mighty collective crew of just under 100 had managed to pack and prep nearly 3100 boxes and crates of food for later transport to the hungry elderly throughout Los Angeles.
Later, as the assortment of teens, college students and varied and sundry made their way out of the warehouse and into the bleary day, what remained of the Sunday Assembly L.A. clan gathered in the lobby for a "Family Photo," and hearty hand shakes and hugs.
As I turned to go, I couldn't help but notice the sun streaming through the cloud cover, seeking opportunity where it could, and the afternoon was on fire with it. Laughter and exchanges of email addresses and Facebook info hummed in the parking lot behind me and my heart was full to the brim. The heaviness I had brought with me that morning had dissipated, pushed out by the sense of family and service that filled that dark warehouse that morning.
I was reminded again, this is what my one life is about, community, kindness, open-heartedness and service, helping those in need and doing it with gladness in your heart. And lest I forget and believe that this work is to help others, I'll write it here as an affirmation to myself and a testament to what this work means ... perhaps it helps us, much more!
Until the next time,