10 years old- my mother ripped the blankets from over me, yelling: “It’s time to get up!” Imagine my surprise, it was 7 a.m. on a Saturday! I rolled out of bed, bathed, then dressed. Getting dressed for weather- most likely below 30 degree, which undoubtedly takes a bit longer than normal.
I recall my brother and sister dragging their feet with just as much laziness and trepidation as I had at the time. Down the stairs through the living-space, into the kitchen- no breakfast prepared. I assumed my mother thought we were going to be late for whatever new quasi-life changing event she was taking us to that weekend. Mom opened the door, a wind rushed in, it was freezing! It was the middle of December, in Michigan no less. My siblings and I shared a glance, I had thought, “Mom, following recent divorce has finally cracked. 7 a.m. on a Saturday what exactly is this?”
We stepped outside, the youngest behind the oldest- the only time I’d ever been happy being the middle child. Then into the gelid car my mother had started just under 10 minutes before we all climbed inside. Driving to our still ambiguous destination- three children seated in the back of my mother’s red Volvo. The same gospel album she played every morning was on repeat as usual, that day just a tad more boisterous. I remember thinking,
“ This is it- she’s going to kill us… She’s strapped us all in. Now driving to the nearest river, gonna place a rock on the gas pedal and send us off.”
But, instead we arrive at a park- Cass Corridor. I see tents, barbecue pits and coolers all setup. I said to myself,
“Thank God, at least this Hell has food.”
But after getting out of the car, then walking toward the tents my mom finally explained to us our purpose for being there. We were there to help serve food to the less fortunate, and she further explained the importance of giving back. Me, just a child then, didn’t much care- more interested in putting food in my very own starving belly.
Cut to me being on the wrong side of the line, a young and hungry kid, serving people food rather than it being served to me. I remember screaming on the inside- on the inside because mom never cared to hear anyone’s diatribe. I’d been on my feet for over an hour, it was cold and I was still hungry! It seemed I couldn’t think of anything else. That soon changed when I sadly saw a boy my very own age pass through the line, with barely a jacket on, nose leaking snot and shivering as he grabbed his plate. I hadn’t a clue, until that moment there were such things as homeless children. I believe this was the first time I was actually thankful any of the things I had. I then looked up to my mother, she smiled at me and continued to serve. Time passed as time does, one person after another. A man, cantankerous in his tone and demeanor asked, “Where are the condiments?” Being only 10 years old I hadn’t a clue what he was speaking of. His voice then became more uneased. Again he asked,
“Where is the mustard, the relish the sauerkraut… y’all got us out here in the damn cold, hardly giving us s***!”
My mother then intervened, obviously confused as to why he was so upset and talking to her son that way. She said,
“First: you need to calm down! Please, just take your plate then move along. You’re holding up the line and we don’t have time for it- go!”
Giving him a look she’s given me just before hitting me with the heaviest object within reach had I done something wrong. The man walked on mumbling offensive words, my mother took a breath, smiled and told me it was okay to continue on. The next person came in line- a woman and before she’d even picked up a plate or any utensils… she said with such jubilation,
“Thank you, young man, God bless you!”
I now volunteer as much as I can,