I learned what “waste” truly meant when the agency for which I worked began participating in a federally funded breakfast and lunch program for the preschoolers in our early childhood program.
The law required that carefully measured portions of food be given to every child, regardless of whether the child is hungry enough to eat it all.
A tremendous amount of food was thrown out each day. Contributing to the waste was the fact that absenteeism was high, snow days were common, and purchasing errors were made from time to time. Much of the food was perishable.
amount of waste gnawed at me, and I was determined to make a dent in it.
Portions to the Portion
I spoke to the two aides who worked in the kitchen and asked them to call me whenever they had perishable leftovers, so that I could bring them to our local emergency shelter, The Little Portion Friary, a ministry of Catholic volunteers. From time to time the
ladies in the kitchen would leave me a voicemail directing me to a package in the refrigerator or by the door. I would pick it up and drop the food off at the Friary on my way home to my apartment.
The homeless buzz
Whenever I left with a package
from the kitchen, departing co-workers would ask what I was doing. That always provided me with an opportunity to talk about the plight of homeless people and my own experiences with them. I also shared information about the Little Portion Friary and their work, and soon it became an interest for other coworkers as well.
It all made me realize the snowballing effect of taking action, no matter how small. Just seeing me make an effort to help those in need seemed to inspire others to do the same. (Not that that had been my intention, but sometimes God has bigger plans for our small deeds.)
One day I received a voicemail message about sixty leftover hotdog buns waiting in the kitchen for me. The ladies weren’t sure I would want them since they had no matching leftover hot dogs. I myself wondered if it was worth the effort. Meditating on the Friary’s freezer space or if the volunteers there could make bread pudding with the buns, I almost changed my mind about going, but then reminded myself that I wasn’t called to question here, just to act.
Your buns are right on time
I rang the Friary doorbell and a girl I did not know answered it. I said, “Hi, I’m Gail. I know this is odd, but I have sixty leftover hot dog buns here. Can you use them?” The girl became wide-eyed and stared at me as if she had just seen a ghost. She yelled, “Sister!” and an elderly nun came hurrying.
The girl slowly said to her, “Sixty hot dog
buns.” The sister laughed and told me that they had just been debating about what to do with the large number of hot dogs they were about to serve thirty homeless men for dinner—on a plate or cut up and added to the baked beans? Now they didn’t have to do either.
We all laughed and the sister said, “The Lord indeed provides.”
Indeed, as long as we don’t get in the way.