My husband decided to surprise me this year with an wonderful yet, unconventional gift. Knowing my passion for working with those in need, he arranged with the Jubilee Center of Broward County for our family to come serve lunch to the homeless. It is truly one of the best Christmas gifts that anyone has every given me. It also continued to build on the wonderful tradition that we have of serving together as a family.
Our morning started EARLY (at least early for the Maccubbin women). We had to be at the center at 8 AM to start the lunch prep. To prepare for our visit, the girls and I went to BJs the day before to shop for pantry items to take with us; items such as soaps, diapers, wipes, paper towels, cups and plastic utensils all made it into the cart. This morning, we took our pickup truck to the center, in case they needed us to haul things for them while we were there, so it was packed to the brim with people and stuff as we headed out the door at about 7:20.
At the center, we were greeted by Lucis, a 77-year old volunteer who arrived at 7 AM to coordinate the work of the food pantry and soup kitchen. Lucis is retired Air Force and for the last 20 years, he has been getting up every weekday morning and taking the City Bus to volunteer at the center. Joyce, the center’s Executive Director arrived shortly thereafter and briefed us on the center’s work and funding. It amazed me how hard they work with such a tight budget to make everything come together. One of my husband’s jobs in the kitchen was to strain six pallets of apricots for lunch, making sure to save the liquid from each can which they used as juice in the serving line. Another volunteer drove the van to half a dozen local grocery stores and restaurants, where they were given produce, soup and other items that these retailers no longer could sell, but could be served in the soup kitchen and given to the families who were struggling to make ends meet.
The girls and I worked with two other young teens that entertained us as we peeled bushels of potatoes and cleaned up a never-ending pile of pots, pans and serving trays. The center had a small kitchen with a double oven and a commercial sink and everything had to be washed by hand.
In a matter of about 2 hours, the soup kitchen, comprised of almost 100% of volunteer staff, had served about 150 homeless, men and women of Broward County.
As we mopped the floors and washed the dishes, I was blown away at how it had all come together and the level of effort it took on the part of the volunteers to make it all happen, many of whom where homeless themselves. And the fact that this level of service continues to happen day after day.
I never cease to be amazed by the people and the life experiences that God uses to teach me more about Him and what is important to Him in this world. Sometimes those experiences involve real pain, personal inconveniences or just plain hard work, but at the end of the day I am always overwhelmed by a flood of memories and lessons that I know God will use in my life for years to come.
May God bless you and your family in a very special way this Christmas!