We held a training class for the coalition’s service agencies today, at an agency in the Kaisertown section of the city. They have a day care, and they have a food bank.
As I intermittently waited/hung out downstairs in the big lobby, people would come in, sign in, the receptionist knew most of them. She told them the only meat they had this week was ground venison – do you still want it? Or wait to see what comes in next week? Every one accepted it.
They were all given 2 nylon grocery bags full of food – I saw large boxes of Honey Nut Cherrios in them; it looked like decent brand name food – maybe not the absolutely healthiest possible, but I would think it made them feel just a bit better to have bright boxes and cans of the best known brands in their kitchen.
In the afternoon I came downstairs to find a line of young people all in gray sweatshirts in a kind of spread out bucket brigade, walking back and forth a few steps taking armloads of boxes from each other. Carrying them through the front door to the pantry that was at the very far end of the long lobby.
Their sweatshirts had the big AmeriCorps circle logo. They looked high school age – fulfilling their community service credits and getting a sweatshirt in the process? Which we didn’t do when I was in school.
Earlier, through the glass doors into the offices hallway, I saw the agency CEO stopping, to bend down and talk to a little girl maybe 2 or 3 years old. The little girl had one hand in her mouth, and with the other held up a yellow plastic toy monkey, probably from large size “Barrel of Monkeys” game. The CEO, with all her responsibilities and budget threats and time pressures – to me she is a very respectworthy woman – bent down, to talk with the little girl, wagging her head holding a focused conversation with her, touching the offered toy but not taking it – obviously thanking her but telling her that she can still play with it – and as she crouched down she jutted her elbows out, curled her hand and rubbed them up and down the sides of her suit jacket. Playing monkey to make the little girl smile and giggle.
And the training? It was safety training for youth care workers. People who are dedicating themselves to helping kids even their own parents have give up on, or who have proven they are incapable of giving them a safe home. Some working long, strange hours in residences and group homes, some stepping into strangers’ houses for parents who have called to report they need help with their teenagers or are at the end of their rope and want to just hand their children over to someone else.
Sometimes the people I work for and work with humble me.