And I didn’t expect this feeling at all, this sense of such accomplishment, a profound feeling of gratitude coupled with a sneaking sense of…..I don’t know, shame, I think. Last night I had the phenomenal privilege of being a part of something that went to my very core, as a blogger first, but also as a person, and a child of God. I don’t talk about that faith here, not much at all, but last night it was profoundly stirred up and I need to address it. All of it was good, just so you know.
This post isn’t about food, nor does it contain a recipe although it will contain a few ingredients needed for vast humility and sheer humbleness. There will be links to bloggers in Minnesota, a wide net that’s been firmly cast. If it doesn’t interest you, I won’t be offended if you click away.
But last night, yes. It started at a restaurant, a dimly lit back room that quickly filled with 40 bloggers from Minnesota covering all walks of life. Organized with aplomb by Melissa, of The Marketing MaMa, it started racing through Twitter way back in early December and I signed on. Because that’s just what you do when opportunity knocks. The door opens and you walk through. Although I’m not so sure I walked. I think I was forcibly thrown, but in a good way. So good that I couldn’t even sleep after it was all over, despite my physical and emotional exhaustion.
I was excited for the event, but being that I am slightly introverted, also a tad nervous. It was helpful to walk into the room and be recognized immediately. It surprised me to hear fellow bloggers gush their appreciation over what I do. I was humbled to hear their thoughts on my blog, my recipes and photos, to hear them say “I’m SO glad to finally meet you!” and see warm, engaging smiles all around. Bloggers are like that. We may not share the same passion for our content- the Moms who blog vs. the people who are enraptured about food vs. those who eloquently talk about kitchen science, books, holistic health, personal motivation and so on. But we all share the same gene that compels us to sit at our computers and forge an online presence, to follow others through Twitter. To connect. Bloggers connect and then when we finally do meet face to face, it’s like meeting a best friend you never knew you had. It’s impossible to stop talking. And thankfully our mouths can work as fast as our fingers.
I knew in my heart that this event was going to move me, in some way, and I still am not certain of outcomes or potential, but it’s there. Seeds have been planted and the trickles are only beginning. I am filled with the possibilities, even if I’ve just made new friends and connections. It was apparent that something big was in the works. Forty people just don’t come together, these days anyway with crowded schedules, young children and busy-ness, on just a whim and a promise. People look for gatherings that have significance and although I know we could have all sat in that restaurant for hours chatting, exchanging cards, ideas, web strategies, blog template ideals (that old Blogger v. WordPress option never fails to rear its head) but we had a bigger goal and that was to do volunteer work for Feed My Starving Children.
Back in December when this whole idea was born, and the volunteer aspect of it sealed, no one could have predicted that we would be specifically packing meals for the earthquake ravaged people of Haiti. What happened to them was so awful that it’s beyond words or feelings. Knowing that the 64 boxes of food we put together was going to land among the shattered buildings and broken population of that country made the outing that much more meaningful. Listening to the tutorial at the beginning of our shift there, and seeing the photos of the children that the meals ultimately help and it was all I could do not to break down into tears. I’d heard of this organization for years but I’d never gone. I have no idea why. Now I can’t wait to go back. One member of our group, Trish, posted the most profound entry that tells the tale better than I could ever imagined. She simply nailed the impact of what we were doing.
We stood together in groups, and scooped portions of food into bags, while upbeat music played in the background and dance moves were practiced. It was noisy and glorious, but somewhere along the way, the impact of it all landed inside me with a thud. There were the images of poverty that we’d seen, and the ones I knew about in my head but refused to acknowledge. There was the long-playing tape of my own financial stresses, something my husband and I have dealt with now for more than a year with no end in sight. Yet, it all came together in it’s own earthquake of awareness in my mind, and with the knowledge that I, as an inhabitant of one of the wealthiest countries on Earth, I am monumentally rich and prosperous compared to those who would be receiving this food we were making, and none of them- NONE– would ever even know the tiniest fraction of comfort that I do every day. For them, one scoop of food was a lifesaver, a means to stop the tears of sorrow. And for me, I cry about the economy and my inability to land a job to help alleviate our ongoing financial stress. We sometimes can’t sleep at night because of it, but I can go to my cupboards and prepare a meal, and I’ve gotten really damn good at making something from the most meager of ingredients, and I usually can eat three times a day without fail. I have experienced hunger but I have never, ever been starving. I have never known my body to devour itself as a means of survival. I have struggled in my lifetime, I have known dark times and long periods of my own poverty, my own lack of nutritious food, and I’ve been an unhealthy skinny girl due to it all, but I have never been swallowed alive by my own body in a last ditch effort to survive. And I’ll never even come close to that, ever.
And I stood there, in front of these ingredients, trying hard not to be repelled by the smell of the chicken powder, which was making me think of Rice-A-Roni. I was imagining the children that would be served this and thinking that they probably didn’t care, that it was likely they felt joy and excitement that a meal was being given to them and here I was, trying not to breathe too deep. Although I participated in the laughter around me, my heart really felt like it was breaking. I felt ashamed of myself, ashamed of the way I pity what I perceive to be inadequacies in my own life. I have so, so much; we’d left food on our plates at the restaurant, and I thought of the food items at home that I sometimes throw out. And I recalled all the complaining I’ve done about our own situation and the anxiety of it- or at least what I think of in terms of anxiety; the means I’ve gone to stretch our food dollars to cover the entire month. The meals that are simple, but nutritious and whole. I can work miracles in the kitchen. But my life, and my comfortable home and furniture, functional clothing, proper shoes, the heat and air-conditioning, our vehicles….it’s all luxuries that people in half the world can only dream about, if they even can envision such a thing.
Then we all gathered in the warehouse for a photo.
And as we dispersed, I saw several members of our group praying over the boxes of food we had created. And I walked away. No wonder I couldn’t sleep last night. I was being stared in the face by my own shortcomings and it wasn’t all that pretty.
My perspective has been monumentally shifted and I am grateful for the process. I alone could never have accomplished such a thing as the events of this night. I alone couldn’t have pushed myself into such discomfort. I could have never shown myself such levels of extreme, from the highs of connecting with these amazing people, meeting the faces behind the Tweeps and blogs and personalities I’ve grown familiar with, to the crashing lows of feeling so much shame over my self-imposed fret when really, my life is pretty amazing in comparison. And I’m glad not to be the only one who came away with a renewed perspective, a sharper focus. Forty hearts came together and gave selflessly and although it broke something in me, it also started building something else. And I’m thrilled to be a part of it. That door opened and I had no control over how mercilessly I was pitched through it, but thankfully it was hard enough for me to be able to stand up and take notice.
Thanks everyone…..you’ve done far more than you can imagine. I hope this is the first of many gatherings.