Was just thinking back to our many OOTC season endings. (Believe me, none of them have been cliff-hangers. We all know how they end: the guests and volunteers leave satisfied but SAD.) I am privileged to highlight a few of our more recent remarkable accomplishments in our Chai Year.
In March, our guest Tim joined our volunteers Sasha, Becky and Louise at Beth Jacob Synagogue to speak to about 20 religious school students, ages 11-13, which included those from Temple Anshe Sholom. Tim spoke of his own personal experience but also spoke for other guests who come to OOTC. On his disability pension, he can barely afford to replace clothing and rent a place at his rooming house. OOTC feeds him almost every night of the week the most nutritious meals offered free or almost free ANYWHERE in the city. He is treated kindly by everyone. When April comes around, he and others worry about what will come next. Twice he told the kids to stay in school and study really hard. Our volunteers spoke about their gratitude for the ‘good’ that has been theirs, even when they’ve had hardships and sorrows. Giving back is a natural way to lead their lives, Jewishly and otherwise. The students sat wide-eyed and still, asking questions respectfully and came to understand another component of tzedakah, justice. Yesterday, I received a text from the mother of two of those students, “We were wondering how to make a donation to OOTC.” After I replied, she wrote back, “Thank you. My kids asked my mother-in-law to donate to OOTC in lieu of their Afikoman present.” (For those who don’t know about the search for the hidden Passover Afikoman, children at the seder run around toppling pillows, looking between books, and in Great-Uncles’ pockets for that matzo which must be redeemed FOR MONEY in order for the seder to continue.) We should all be encouraged knowing that the next generation is already caring for people who are in need.
Speaking of that matzo, a sign of enslavement and our redemption, we realize that however meager it may be, we offer to share it. In so doing, we actually prize more the people in our lives and values we hold dear. Let those who hunger, come and eat. In feeding them, we nourish ourselves.
And we did, on the last night, nourish ourselves just a little bit, right?, on, as one guest described, a “Killer dinner!” Just imagine the expressions on the guests’ faces as they read the ‘DELI NIGHT’ menu board. Pea and barley soup, smoked meat sandwiches, pickles, knishes stuffed with potatoes and onions, French fries, coleslaw, quinoa with softened kale and sautéed mushrooms, bananas and clementines. (Couldn’t have done it without Waxy’s food truck and Suzi!)
Recently, on the walls of a diner, I read the following messages: “You can’t live a full life on an empty stomach.” “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.” “Good food=Good mood” They make perfect sense in this special OOTC world. Our guest Murray stressed: “PLEASE thank ALL the volunteers. They have to know what it means to many of us to who suffer from isolation. It is the shits. OOTC gives us a chance to be together, to have nice chats and socialize.”
Over 19 weeks, 2430 guests were fed, averaging 127 satisfied appetites per week. That is the highest since our 2011/2012 Season. It was also our most expensive season even factoring in the generous weekly donations of Fortinos’ bread and Lococo’s produce. It couldn’t have been accomplished without your serious commitment and our wonderful Coordinator of Volunteers, Norma. We love you, Norma!
So to all of you who took on the task and gave their time and energy with selfless desire, thank you. Please return again in the fall. Wishing you good health and happiness until we meet again.
PS (ha, ha, not done yet!) I recovered a beautiful poem presented to our group on a final night. Keep it close to your heart.
Seated at worn table, earthly cares set aside,
One of many humbled shadows taking life’s woes in stride
Eyes downcast past angelic guests
For a respite of rest
Bowl of soup, a wedge of bread to be downed
But first, cradled like they were a jewel in a crown
Among forlorn smiles, part of the fold
Lingering for a while out of the cold.