When I volunteered at my first soup kitchen it was a part of my 2014 ‘bucket list.’ I wrote down different things I wanted to accomplish that year and one of them was to volunteer more. The soup kitchen was in the basement of a local church where families, neighbours and strangers got together to prepare and cook a meal for people who were facing difficult circumstances. Some people were experiencing homelessness while others could not afford a roof over their head and groceries. I remember lining up behind the food table as the guests walked in. I had a smile on my face because I felt like I was doing something really good. The guests were complimenting me, smiling and thanking us for the meal. It took about 3 minutes for my expression to change and I began to have so many different feelings. All of a sudden I was sad, my heart felt so heavy and I began to cry uncontrollably.
What happened for me was that although I understood there were people in need in my community, this was my first up-close and personal encounter. Before this day I was removed and separate from these people and their problems. In that moment their pain became my pain and their healing was my healing.
I took a few moments to gather myself, took some deep breaths and went back to serving the meal. After everyone had received their food I was asked to walk around the dining tables, clean up empty plates and interact with the guests. I remember being afraid and thinking “what will I say to these strangers?” In the church dining hall there were men sporting nice suits, young people, elderly people and a man named Ricky who made funny accents and who had a roster of jokes to share. I quickly learned something new about myself. I learned that I was at home with these people who I had labeled as ‘strangers’ and that I wanted to be of service: to help, to heal, to love and to be kind.
I went to the soup kitchen to do something kind and what I realized was that ‘kind’ was not something that could simply be done. Kindness is a way of being. Kindness is the embodiment of love, of compassion and non-judgement. That day at the soup kitchen was a profound moment in shaping who I wanted to BEE in the world rather than focusing solely on what I was doing.
Bee kind to the flowers and to the weeds.
Bee kind to the plants and to the trees.
Bee kind to the animals and things you can’t always see.