Last week I was given a very humbling opportunity of helping feed the homeless at the Nashville Rescue Mission. One of the companies we write insurance through, Safeco (owned by Liberty Mutual), has a program that allocates funds for certain non-profits if agencies volunteer at them as a way to help the communities in which they operate.
After catching wind of this program, we decided to support the Nashville Rescue Mission with a sock drive and volunteering. Our Agency owner Kay let me, along with her teenage son, Rowan, help serve lunch for them last Monday. Now, a week after my experience, I’m left with an inexplicably strong sense of humility. To be perfectly frank, I didn’t know what to expect going into it. I’d volunteered at Safe Haven before when I was in college. But that was a place catering to families who went through a vetting process before being accepted. The Nashville Rescue Center is open to anyone who needs a hand, so I knew the demographic would be a diverse one.
The first thing I noticed was how warm and sincere the receptionist and lobby personnel were. There was a strong aura of (I don’t know how else to describe it) general kindness surrounding the folks I met there. Everyone was open and welcoming, and frankly, it was a feeling I wish we encountered more often out in the world.
After the initial meet and greet, we were led to the kitchens. When we arrived, they provided aprons, gloves, and these lunch-lady-like hairnets that we all had to put on (aren’t they pretty?). Then, we all stood assembly-line style behind a counter, passing down trays as the 5 of us (there were 3 other volunteers that day) pieced together various meals made from the food donated by local resources. Once the doors opened, there was an influx of people from all walks of life. I quickly learned that the Center wasn’t there to benefit only the homeless; they also service anyone economically disadvantaged.
It was certainly a heartwarming thing to be a part of; seeing the other volunteers sacrificing their own time to help the needs of their community. But the most significant takeaway I think I gained from my experience was interacting with those we served. There was one man, in particular, who I almost teared up over after hearing him speak. Before he took his tray, he made an exerted effort to lean over the counter. He looked down the aisle at all of us, straight in the eye. Then he said a more sincere “thank you” than I think I’ve ever heard in my life. I could tell how genuinely grateful he was, and during that very moment, I knew exactly why this kind of work is so important.
We live in a world filled with inconvenient truths and harsh realities. Our country is perhaps more divided today than it’s ever been. But this experience shed light on what brings us together, and illuminated a path that is so often shrouded in darkness. Be good to each other. If those who have next to nothing can do it…surely so can we.
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