A 9/11 Tribute: How to feed 50 souls
SERVING WITH YOUR FAMILY AS A TRIBUTE I wanted to share with you an act of service our family has purposefully been doing for six months now. We share the duty with our small group at church and we took the opportunity with the intention of teaching our children how to serve others. Our congregation has been serving a long term addiction recovery center for almost 20 years. One of the primary commitments we have made to this facility is that there will be a meal provided each Monday night by our church. Our recent participation is only a continuation of that long running commitment. There are small groups and families who have participated in this effort from the very beginning of the effort.
Our small group took the third Monday night assignment from a group of individuals who raised their children by doing this regular service. A few months ago as we shared the last turnover night with them, I saw a tear or two in their eyes. The moments they had shared with the residents of the center and the memories of serving with their children through the years were full and wonderful. They were handing it over to those of us who have young children and busy families in hopes that we could enjoy the opportunity as much as they had.
Each third Monday we show up at The Extension with a carload of food ready to be finished and served in the kitchen there. The task is to prepare food for approximately 50 men. We took on this duty knowing that we wanted to do more than just serve them a piece of pizza with a nod. As we planned the first few meals we set a goal to serve good healthy meals that would satisfy their stomachs after a hard day of work.
The addiction treatment lasts for a year. In the beginning there is intensive therapy and change, but as a resident becomes used to the expectations of the program they are then tasked with finding a job which will fulfill the schedule of the center and allow them to do their therapy and counseling each night. Many of the men come in from jobs exhausted each night and then clean up for dinner ready to take on their inner demons. The dinner becomes the free moment between work and counseling.
I’m not sure what we expected when we did the first night, but the truth is we got so much more than what we gave to those 50 men. Simply by having our children there to set the table and serve the men their meal, they began to see how a meal means more than just food.
Initially I was concerned about the safety of my kids. After all, some of the residents have been to some very dark places in their life. We do still have rules about where they are to be during our visit, but I’m not worried anymore.
The last time we visited we had been blessed with a donation of chicken from Zaycon Foods. (They gave 80 pounds of chicken breasts as a donation to our local cause!) I decided that the summertime menu should have one night of chicken off of the grill to be enjoyed. We offered a plate full of vegetables with the grilled chicken and some kettle cooked BBQ chips which were on sale that week. One of the women in our small group made two beautiful homemade from scratch pound cakes.
These men are at a broken point in their lives. They are some of the most polite and humble people I have ever met. When you look them in the eye and actually talk to them they appreciate the gesture. The mere handshake or recognition that you have returned like you promised means something to them. We are at the point where we are beginning to see and remember individuals on each visit. That’s a great reward and chance to encourage them…but it is a connection that I did not anticipate.
So, back to the meal. The moment they saw that the chicken in the warmer was fresh off the grill their eyes lit up. We began to get comments like, “Wow, is that a grilled chicken breast?” and “You may have just topped last month’s casserole. That chicken looks great!” I don’t know about your household, but grilled chicken is a staple in our weekly meals. It’s fast, healthy, and tasty. But these guys don’t usually get it each week. They are well fed, but the grilled chicken was truly a treat. I took approximately 25 pounds of the chicken breast meat and cut it into evenly portioned servings. The meat was antibiotic/additive free and included the rib meat so one official breast actually made at least two servings. I had brushed olive oil and a quick dry rub on the meat and then grilled it. I then transferred it to the warming roaster pan to keep it at the correct temperature for transport.
After serving the meal we usually sit down and eat with them if there is enough food. There was plenty of chicken that night so we all dined together. I always learn something new from these men each time I dine with them. We try to scatter out among them and get to know them better. It will not surprise you to know that my Grace has spoken to the most residents and knows their names. She sat with one of the counselors and others and participated in a lively conversation. I took note that one of the youngest children had no problem feeding the resident’s heart with human kindness.
My friend Amanda’s cakes were similarly received. They were so delicious and it was obvious from the first bite that these men had mothers and grandmothers who used to cook pound cakes because their comments were about the memories that dessert brought back for them.
Some men took the extra chicken breasts and wrapped them for their lunch the next day. One man, who was diabetic mentioned how difficult it was to find a healthy lunch from the lunch trucks that went to his work site. He was thrilled to have something appropriate for his special diet. Again, something we all take for granted.
The best part of the meal is cleanup…that’s because we are not expected to do cleanup. It is part of the job duties that the men complete each night. We simply pick up our items and go with a wave. After that I find myself in a car with my three answering questions about life and love. It’s a really great opportunity for our family to grow together.
About the 9/11 Tribute
Our family would like to dedicate this service in honor of our friend and my husband’s shipmate, CAPT Robert E. Dolan who died in the 9/11 Pentagon tragedy. His wife Lisa had led a life of service even after the loss of her husband. Her children have taken on that spirit of service and used it in their own lives as they have matured from the children of a 9/11 victim into wonderful adults.
If you would like to take action and dedicate an act of service to Bob or other 9/11 victims please document it at the 9/11 Tribute page through 911day.org and My Good Deed. I know that the 9/11 victims would encourage you to participate. What better tribute on this Day of National Remembrance?
Disclosure: Zaycon Foods contributed 80 pounds of chicken breast meat to our cause and I choose to give them recognition in this post because of this kind gift. Their generosity made the 50 men of The Extension very happy.