“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
For a moment on Wednesday night, I was worried. Twenty freshmen and sophomores, gas stoves, sharp knives and the need to prepare and serve dinner for 40+ people at the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter in less than an hour? I questioned my decision.
As my students from trickled into the shelter that night, I quickly jumped into teacher mode and soon had the industrial-sized kitchen humming with activity. Onions were chopped, meat was browning, cornbread was mixing and tables were being set.
Little by little, my nervousness was replaced by problem solving. No measuring cup? No problem -- use an app to convert cups to tablespoons. No, I don’t know how to use an industrial sized coffee maker – find someone to help you. And they did.
After a while, any passerby might have thought these kids were running the kitchen of the best restaurant in town. They were even wiping up after themselves! As they cooked, they bonded with each other, and eased their own jitters about meeting the strangers waiting outside the door.
The real lesson came after the food was prepared and the homeless guests lined up to be served. With eagerness and compassion, these children served men and women who were actually not so different from themselves. Slowly they ventured toward the dinner tables.
Sitting side by side and sharing a meal broke down the scariness. Stories began to move back and forth, child and adult bonding over simple food and a common desire to get to know each other’s story.
I stood back and watched the transformation, and beamed with pride at the acts of compassionate justice occurring before me.