At a foodbank this morning I witnessed a Residential Home participant passing out homemade muffins to the clients. Before the muffins were handed out a volunteer explained why the Home was providing the muffins. “We’re here because it is the 150th anniversary of Canada and we know Canadians are being challenged to offer 150 hours of volunteer time in 2017. The Canada 150 for 150 Volunteer Challenge will engage tens of thousands in making a difference in the lives of Canadians. I had not heard of this challenge until today but I looked up the website and found more information.
What struck me about me about today was the nature of the gift, here was a mentally challenged man offering muffins he had made for foodbank clients. The clients listened, watched and then received the offering with wide eyes and open hearts. As recipients of free food in a church many would often be on the receiving end of kindness. Some become accustomed to this role, while many others resent this arrangement. I remember a man from the Halifax street choir “The Shining Lights” telling a Sunday morning congregation that performing Christmas carols that day for the church was likely the only way he could return the many kindnesses he had received. Ever since then I have thought about how poverty often robs the poor from the opportunity to share something they have as a gift with another.
But here was a mentally challenged man offering his muffins to clients at a foodbank. It is true that this man would receive supervision from staff at the group home and the resources to make these muffins would be given to him. But the effort and the unique idea to make the muffins and provide them to a foodbank came from this man.
As I stood there in the circle watching the look in the eyes of the clients I wondered if any were wondering what they might be inspired to share. I remember serving as a volunteer at a local mission and watching one guest drawing volunteers with his pencil and sketch paper. He would offer the drawing as a gift, a thank you. It was very moving to witness how this man saw us volunteers. I noticed that he drew from the perspective of sitting down and we were standing up. That spoke volumes to me. For ever after that I always sat next to this artist and spoke to him only eye to eye. The other volunteers did likewise.
All of us can benefit from this 150 hours of volunteer time on our 150th year as a country. It is a great way to get to know our community. But I wonder how many of us will remember that we each have a gift to share, not just those with abundant resources. Many with limited resources have an abundance of gifts to share.
As I walked through the Public Gardens the other day I was in a hasty rush to get to the bus stop. As I approached the large iron gates a man with ill-fitting clothes, sneakers torn apart, no teeth, opened the gates for me. I replied “thank you”. As I ran by he locked eyes with me, smiled broadly and said, “It’s what I do.”
Volunteering is what we all can do.