I volunteered on Tuesday night to help feed a faction of the Harbor’s homeless population. I won’t say where, or when. I won’t even shed light on who the sweet, caring person is who led me to it.
It’s because there is an attitude problem on the Harbor. It’s from people who clean up after homeless people and then denigrate them afterward. It’s also from people who talk about “they” being the problem. No surprise, the negativity has been seen on social media.
That’s not what charity is about. In fact, it defeats the purpose. Don’t bother helping if you’re using it as an excuse to insult people. They’re down on their luck, for one reason or for a variety of reasons. There is no point to add more negativity to the situation.
Charity is about helping people. That’s it.
I’ve volunteered a few times now and one thing I like is how the focus is on the people in need. Although the volunteers get a chance to eat with everybody — community is a big part of the weekly endeavor — what you get as a volunteer depends on what’s left. But that’s part of the point. Feed the hungry people first.
As I said on the serving line “there’s no reason I’d be here if the volunteers were fed first.”
On Tuesday, the group was anticipated to be a smaller one, but we ended up serving an estimated 50 people. That’s a big number considering the organizers started the “outreach” last fall with just a few mouths to feed. We also ran out of food.
Most of the people who showed up Tuesday were able to get the prized and delicious entree, lasagna. But even if they were too late, they got a full plate. And it’s good food. One person said whatever the former caterers make they’ll eat, because it’s always good.
The other main offering on the line was a fried rice dish with 48 eggs packed in it. Outside of that, the homeless guests received peas, a dressed salad, fresh pineapple, garlic bread and assorted sweets.
And one person kept coming back to the line for more. They couldn’t get enough of the fried rice. Another person — a familiar face to me since I’ve seen her each time I’ve volunteered — is a nice woman who’s full of energy. She showed me photos of her family. She sounded quite proud of her relatives and she hopes to see them soon. Another guest who came Tuesday night helps people at a smaller encampment in town. He only helps to help, nothing else.
While this is hosted at a religious institution, where there is a little bit of “spreading the word,” I can say as someone who hasn’t attended a church service in years that I haven’t burst into flames while reading a couple psalms and singing a few hymns each trip over there. And you know why I haven’t burst into flames? I don’t judge the people I help. I just help and I expect nothing in return.
I know there is a lot of anger amongst many people toward issues some homeless people have helped grow — trash and other waste, area store shopping carts, etc. — but it’s certainly not everyone without a proper house or apartment. And people are not a monolith. It’d be nice if everyone would see that.
In the meantime, and when I can, I’m going to keep assisting my incredibly compassionate friend help feed the people who show up for much needed sustenance because charity is about helping others in need. That’s all.
Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org.