Recently I had the opportunity to join some fellow actors in preparing a meal for some of the underserved in Chicago. Now you should know that I grew up learning to cook for large family, in fact I always make too much food when I do cook as it’s all I know! But we were expecting anywhere from 50-150 people for this lunch so we had to be prepared for any contingency. To say I was impressed with what the organizer planned and what we turned out of that kitchen is an understatement. But we had enough food for everyone to get seconds if they wanted it and still had lots of yummy leftovers to send to a nearby shelter. I kept telling the customers that if the food was good I made it, if they didn’t like it, that guy over there made it. But it was indeed yummy as I sat down to share the meal with them.
Talking to strangers can be a dicey business. You never know what you will encounter so I try to stay aware of the circumstances and keep my personal safety foremost in my mind. But I felt very safe in this situation and wanted to get to know the clients a bit more. Making eye contact, asking questions about their lives, laughing with them and sharing a bit about my own struggles were simple things to do. It’s what I do all the time. Sometimes I feel like I lapse into interviewing people I ask so many questions! I’m working on that. While I helped send them away with a full tummy and an orange for when they got hungry later, I realized they sent me away with a renewed gratitude for the support I receive and the gifts and skills I’ve been blessed with. I was at a pretty low point not too long ago, both financially and personally, and felt like I didn’t have anywhere to turn. It was an awful and desperate feeling but I was able to work my way out of it. Hearing the stories of my fellow diners, I realized we are all pretty much one accident, crisis or fiasco away from joining them in their struggles. Maybe I’ll be slower to put my guard up next time.