Last night, eight of us from our volunteer group had plans to bring dinner to the women and kid’s shelter we’re involved with. We settled on pizza after asking what they’d like and brought in a variety of pies. Four or five women with about twelve children met us in the community kitchen, ready to eat. We served them pizza, poured juice and soda, ate and talked with them at the long table. The kids just wrapped up their school year, filled us in on their summer plans, told us their ages and what grade they’ll be attending in the fall. Besides the fourteen year old boy the children were young, six and under.
After dinner we colored with the kids and played with building blocks. They piled dessert plates with cookies, twizzlers, cupcakes, smearing fingers and faces with blue and white frosting. Someone donated a plastic flute-like instrument; one of the boys serenaded us for the rest of the evening.
One mom was late to the party. She carried her two month old baby in a car seat, told us she had been busy running around all day. She’d taken a bus to her baby’s doctor, a couple of towns away, which would have been close to a thirty minute drive by car. I didn’t ask but I imagine her travel time was more than an hour round trip, never mind the time it took at her appointment, wait time for the bus, plus the time it took to walk to the bus stop. She has to do the same thing on Monday so her baby can get a shot. She was tired and hungry but smiled good-naturedly when she told us about her day. Carmel gave her son his bottle so mom could eat a couple of slices of pizza and drink some juice uninterrupted.
Another mother, whose son and daughter sat across from each other coloring and laughing, said they rarely got along, they fought a lot. “This is a break for me,” she said, “I’m really enjoying the quiet.” With a dozen kids playing in one room it wasn’t quiet but I knew what she meant.
We left so the woman could get their children ready for bed. I got in my car with the full tank of gas and drove to my nicely furnished house. At home I walked around my backyard, watered the plants on the deck, inspected the squash, green beans, peppers, tomatoes growing in my garden. I sat in an adirondack chair on the deck for a few minutes, breathing in and exhaling out the end of the day.
A flaw or two have reared their ugly heads this week and I’ve been beating myself up over it. When I pray to have my shortcomings removed I’m usually tested and this week I’ve failed miserably. As I sat in my comfortable chair in the bedroom I don’t have to share, reading on my laptop, I remembered what a friend of mine, a doctor, tells her patients: Practice Gratitude.
I’m starting right now.