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Sharing Soup with a Smile

August 5, 2010

5:00 AM on Friday and my alarm clock is going off. I climb out of bed, yawn, and grumble slightly as I realize that I won’t be back in bed for several hours. I smell my coffee brewing and begin getting ready as my son, who is 10-years-old, walks out of his room doing the same. The attitude quickly changes as I remember why we’re up this early.

At 6:00 AM, we arrive at the Christensen House and, amid the hasty movement of the rest of the crew, begin carrying industrial sized pots to the trailer along with necessary cutlery and condiments. Once the trailer is fully loaded, a quick prayer is recited by those who choose to participate and we begin our short journey to an empty dirt lot. At roughly 6:30 AM, Soup and a Smile is set up and in full effect. Hundreds of homeless and hungry in the area are accustomed to the free meal offered every Wednesday through Saturday. The time nor place does not change. The majority of the customers are regulars and we greet and are greeted with smiles and friendly words. Gratitude is prominently displayed by those receiving the meals, many of whom are military veterans, elderly, and folks who are victims of our current economic crisis. They’re good people, just down on their luck.

There are various stations to assist with aside from serving the main dish such as serving bread, desserts, napkins, and clean towels. Our first time working with the crew, my son and I were given simple tasks so we could stay close to each other. I was passing out jalapenos and he was passing out paper towels. As we began learning the ropes and my son became confident with working the ladle, we moved to serving the main meal, which was spaghetti today. Some of the folks we recognize strike up conversations and my son beamed when he saw a gentleman who consistently offers him quotes of wisdom. “Dad, look who it is!” he exclaimed as this gentleman began telling a fable of a dragon who wouldn’t listen to his parents.

Contrary to what many people believe, they don’t all feel sorry for themselves and aren’t simply looking for a handout. In fact, many are content and even happy with their life and are joyful to be where they are at. Some talk about jobs they have recently applied to, others about sports transactions. The conversations buzzing around us are friendly and mimic those of childhood acquaintances. Before we know it, the meal is gone and the crowd has dispersed.

By 7:00 AM, we are cleaned up and those who choose to leave, can. This is when we usually leave for school and work. The others head back to the Christensen House to wash the dishes. Altogether, dishes included, it’s an hour and half of the day. My son and I have spent more time than that glued to the television set.

Soup and a Smile is definitely a prime volunteer opportunity. It’s more than serving the needy a warm meal; it’s a time for problems to be set aside and cordial conversation to be had. Volunteers and customers alike engage in friendly interaction.

This is definitely one of my top choices to help the needy in the Las Vegas valley. And their appreciation certainly humbles the servers as well. Soup and a Smile has definitely alerted me to the harsh reality of hunger in the valley and my own selfishness is suppressed more so with every visit. Since initially volunteering with Soup and a Smile, I’ve also noticed differences in my son. From our conversations, I gather that he’s growing up and recognizing that life isn’t all peaches. There is a cold world out there and it’s on us, all of us, to ensure the needs of humanity are met. Take a look at world-renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and understand that all five theoretical stages are fulfilled by Soup and a Smile, as brief as it may be.

~ Jason

If you’d like to experience Soup and a Smile click HERE to get details and to sign up.  If the time/dates don’t work for you there are many other opportunities that need volunteers.  Visit www.VolunteerCenterSN.org to find the right opportunity for you today!

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