Return of the crybaby

Dear Feastlings,
As much as I’m inclined to bellyache about my lot in life these past fourteen months, I do have moments where I feel pretty good. It’s been a difficult year, and when I’m focused on our own hardships- the empty dining room, the equipment that continues to wear out even as our income is slashed, the inability to find enough staff to reopen and the fear that when we do, there’ll still be too few seats and too few people filling them to dig us out of the hole we’ve fallen into- I’m the first to admit that I’m a complainer, even in the best of times. Ask my family. Ask my coworkers. Ask the people who really know me well. I’m a whiner. I cast a wide net with my victimhood and see what unfortunate sympathizers are caught in my trawl.
There are, however, occasional moments in which I’m reminded that other people’s sympathy- or their pity, or recognition of my victimhood- isn’t remotely the thing that will make me happy, or even comfortable. Today was a day like that- I brought food down to Casa Alitas today, and by the time I walked out the door, I was wiping tears off my face. Thanks to a great many of you, and to the crew here at Feast, I was able to bring 150 meals to them, and while it felt like a drop in the bucket, it also felt good to rub elbows with the people who choose to spend their days helping people who need help, even if only fleetingly.
I love making the donation runs to hospitals and fire stations, and those can leave me teary as well, especially when I meet the people working there and hear their stories, but on a day kicked off watching a quarrel over mask-wearing and basic politeness, going to a place so completely steeped in the goal of helping people in a moment of need was positively inspirational. I saw my friend Jane, the parent of a schoolmate who forty-five years ago I regarded as a tot, but who in reality couldn’t be more than four or five years my junior, and I discovered that she spends her time in retirement helping migrants on their route to a stable life. I met a new friend, Katie, who’s evidently on this very email list (hi, Katie!) and who showed me around the space that’s been transformed from a Juvenile Detention Center to a place that offers shelter and hope to people who desperately need it. And I cried like a baby.
Whatever your politics, and whatever effect the pandemic has had on your health or your livelihood, the past year- really, the past years- find us at the edge of a vesicle that struggles to maintain an onion-skin of decency around a swelling mass of intolerance. And I’m the first to admit it applies to me as much as people who believe the opposite of what I believe. So to spend even an hour in a place where people walk in, shelve their focus on themselves, and jump feet-first into helping a complete stranger simply because they’re a fellow human being? It completely restores my faith in humanity, and it makes me realize that the more I do it, the happier I’ll be. It suddenly doesn’t matter that someone was impolite to someone else over a firmly-held belief of what’s polite and what isn’t in regard to mask-wearing, or cutting in line at the grocery store. It doesn’t matter that water heaters give up the ghost when we don’t have a pocketful of cash for a new one, or that we got shorted a salmon on our order one day.
What matters is that helping someone who needs help feels amazing, and in a goofy twist of fate, I have all of you to thank for helping us get out there and help someone else. So thank you. Thank you like crazy. I’m crying again, so I’m going to take a break, and tomorrow I’ll send you an email about more mundane things- the Saturday wine tasting, our plans for reopening the dining room, and the next place we’ll be bringing donated meals, if only because being able to cry like this is a thousand times better than whining. Thanks, everyone.



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