Yesterday, Sara and I were invited by her friend Jackie and her daughter Julie, to join their church in serving Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless in Manchester. I was both privileged and moved by the experience.
Manchester Christian Church sponsored the event at the Salvation Army on Cedar St in downtown Manchester. I got a little taste of the spirit of this church and all I can say is wow. As we did at T-EH, the religious aspect was part of the event. But I felt this was different. Prayer of taking Jesus and God into your heart was very prominent, but certain things I felt were more subtle. Like instead of playing only religious songs by the guitar players and singers, they mixed in pop songs that had uplifting lyrics. And they let some of our guests sing. I thought that was great.
A word about this church. I really like that the pastor has built a theme around everything they do (“Pray for One”) and it is embedded in the activities and their SPECTACULAR web presence. Including an “online campus”. Now I may be getting a little “I told you so” on this one, but stroke of genius there. If only someone at T-EH had thought of something like that say hmmmm…10 years ago. Oh and check this out. I vividly remember a speech I delivered at an annual meeting advocating for more “community” instead of just religion and I used the ski lodge fireplace as a metaphor for getting people together and interacting. Know what this church has????
But I digress. It was rewarding to me to do something that I knew would make me uncomfortable. I heard this quote about presentations, “Get comfortable with the knot in your stomach.” It applies to lots of things in life. I never had a server or fast-food job as a kid so helping out at this event was new on several levels. A few things really struck me.
- We all wore name tags and our guests were comfortable addressing me by first name
- The church had done an amazing job at organizing the volunteers. Feeding 300 people is a challenge, but I thought we did well
- There were designated volunteers who sat with the guests to make them feel welcome and spark conversation
- They got more volunteers than actually needed!
- Many people donated clothing so that after dinner, guests could go and fit warm clothes to help with the upcoming winter
What I really liked was that I got to sit with a few guests and talk to them at random times. Having conversations with new people is always fun and exciting. I really enjoy learning about people and their stories. It’s part of my theories on respecting everyone.
- I met David as I was serving coffee and we joked about how the only way to drink coffee is black, as he called it “John Wayne style”. We laughed about campfire coffee and saving the grit as a snack for later
- I met Michael who was proud of his 2 year medallion for being sober. He told me a few AA jokes and we talked a little about getting to meetings. His biggest problem was in transportation. We’re talking about 5-8 miles, something you or I wouldn’t blink at. Which got me to thinking that I wonder if you could donate cash to Uber and ‘free rides’ could pop up on drivers accounts and they could take people where they needed to go. Michael wanted to go to church and AA meetings. What more can you ask?
- Jackie and I sat with Mike and Steven and talked for a bit. Mike was a big gregarious story teller. And while I know that he was exaggerating, it made me think of families sitting around the T-Day table telling stories. Who doesn’t add a little color to make the story more interesting? The point is to laugh, and we had a nice conversation.
A few days ago I received a thank you letter from Donors Choose for a gift I gave to a class doing the Lego Challenge up at FIRST. I mentored a team a few years ago so I really like the program.
As the Thanksgiving week rolls in, I thought it was good to remind people that there are a lot of ways to practice the “giving” part of this holiday. I sent some money Friday to a charity started by a friend at work, to do research for Fragile X syndrome. It’s so easy now to give back, all it takes is commitment. As I am learning more every day, commitment is one of those core things that define who you are. Say that you are going to do something, and then do it. Don’t waiver. Don’t change your plans. Be true to your beliefs, don’t just say “thanks” this week, give something back too.