Got Way More Than A Meal

Patty - Kingsport, Tennessee
Entered on October 12, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
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Got Way More Than A Meal

For the last year or so I had the wonderful privilege of working as an AmeriCorps Vista for one of the many United Way sponsored organizations here in town. It allowed me to have a wonderful working experience, and so much more. Just a few months ago however, due to funding issues, I had to stop working as a paid employ for this organization, and go back to volunteering only. While this didn’t hurt my ego a lot it did hurt my finances a lot. I’d worked hard to rid myself of dept, and I was on a different kind of budget than ever before. Not wanting to lose all the hard work I’d put in to this, I began to literally use the very referrals that I’d worked so very hard to make sure that those in need of them got the correct information given to them about. Now, the shoe was on the other foot, and not fitting comfortably at all. I found myself feeling both frightened and angry. Then one day some friends of mine, who also volunteer at the organization I was working for, and still am volunteering for, invited me to eat lunch with them at the Salvation Army Kitchen. At first I was hesitant. I was already getting the Meals On Wheels services, and I hated that I’d had to go to that again to supplement my food. Then one of them said, “Well, they need more cards there, and it couldn’t hurt any for you to be the one to hand them out today”. So I went along. When I got there it wasn’t at all what I’d expected. With in ten minutes of my being there, I’d seen people I went to school with. I saw a person who had worked hard all his life, gone to school earned a degree and even had, had a great job, but due to over seas trade and such his job was gone, and his degree a useless peace of paper. For now, he found himself needing to survive. I asked him about this, and he said, “Well, I can’t find another job if I don’t keep up my strength and health”. He smiled, I could hear it in his voice. I am blind, but I didn’t need to see. He shook my hand and said, “I came down here one day, like you with a friend, and thinking a whole bunch of hooey that is not in the least bit so”. “I now, volunteer here some, and eat some, and it works out well for all”. His attitude stuck with me, and in a good way. I too began to go down there to the Salvation Army Kitchen. My friends and I have brought along a couple of others since then, and we have begun to refer to the kitchen there as Sally’s. We gave it a name, and made it a place to share a meal with friends and a place that we do not mind talking with others about. It has been a wonderful experience. Seeing people there I knew, and meeting new ones and learning about there stories, and being able to help some with the knowledge I gained from working with the different programs, well it has been a blessing for sure.

Then just this past Tuesday I had occasion to go down to the Salvation Army with a friend of mine, and this friend was going to sign up to put his son on the Angel Tree. Well, we held our breath, said a prayer, and crossed our fingers. They were only going to take so many applications, and qualifying would be hard. My friend said he wished he could adopt a name rather than add a name, and I sat back and listened as he had his interview with the worker. His honesty and his true love for his son, shown through, and as he spoke, I preyed. I asked God to bless according to the true need and nothing more. When he walked away from the table, he had a pick up date, which meant his son had qualified. This was a great feeling. However, there was much more in store for me as I sat there that day. As I waited for him, I observed the others around us. So many people in need for so many different things. So many stories. Most true, and some not. Of course every where there are those taking advantage of the system. I pushed those thoughts away and smiled at a little boy running past. He was about the same age as my grand daughter. He did not know where they were, nor did he know why. He did not care. He was with his Mommy, and he knew that she was making it alright. That is all he needed and wanted to know.

Later as we wondered round the little neighborhood of little shops and things, we happened on a little store called the Habitat Store. This store takes donations of items, and sells them in their store to raise funds for Habitat For Humanity. This organization builds houses for families. As I was walking through and buying a few items, it dawned on me, that I myself had just been a few steps away from qualifying for a house of my own. For a moment I felt that old angry feeling, but I quickly stamped it out. I was where I was because of my own stupidity, and attitude. You see, when I began to work as an actual employ I got all rapped up in the work aspect and forgot the reason for my beginning there in the first place. God had a much bigger plan for me, and at that moment I knew that much, and not much more.

You see, the organization I had been working with and still do volunteer phone shifts for is 2-1-1/Contact Concern. It is a telephone help line that provides information and referrals for those in need of assistance, and a whole lot more. I learned of all the services that were now helping me, by my work there. I’d known a lot of what it was to be on the other end of one of those calls, but now, more than ever I was sure of two things. One thing, I would be telling a larger truth when I said to a caller, “It’s alright to need a little help, I’ve been there a few times”. I also knew that God had placed me in this situation so I could do some serious work for the community I love so much. He literally had given me the blessing of a life time. So that after noon, I began to work on a plan to go out to these different places, and yes I’ll still need to use the services there, but while I’m there, I’ll be making sure to stand at a door from time to time, hold it for a tired participant of a program, and hand them a 2-1-1 card, personally not from a little stand on a counter; and say, “Have a blessed day, and use this if ever you should need anything”. I want to take the time to really answer questions, and not have the constraint of a schedule or any kind of real restriction. If I’m standing there on the same ground as they are, and they see me in that same boat with them, they maybe just maybe will seriously ask questions, and seek a better way for themselves.

I hope to some day be working again as a paid employ for Contact, but I hope that I never forget where Sally’s is, nor do I want to forget how it felt to be there, and need that so very badly.

Another little twist to this story is, just yesterday I was telling my daughter of going in to the Habitat store, and of this neat love seat I’d found. Well, she suddenly had some real interest in it. She, when I told her there was something wrong with one end asked, “Well, what was the matter with it”? Not thinking a thing about it, I laughingly told her that some one had let their cat claw up the one end of it, but I didn’t care, cause my cat would soon have the other end matching nicely. My daughter laughed rite out then and said, “Mom! That was probably our old love seat”! “Heck! If I’d known you wanted it, I’d have given it to you”! Before I knew it I too was laughing, and I said with out thinking, “Well, what the heck I’m making a house payment”! Isn’t it wonderful just how things do work themselves out?

You see, I believe that some times we must go back to where we first began to truly get where it is that we are going. I now know a lot more than when I first began at Contact Concern, and I am able to truly give of myself with nothing standing in the way.

My name is Patty Fletcher, and it is my belief that the lesson I’ve learned as a result of losing my job will do more good for those around me than any other I could’ve ever learned. Love really is a circle.