I recently got my ass out of bed at 4:30 on a holiday Monday morning after a weekend in Las Vegas. Why would I do that to myself??? For this guy:
Because I made a commitment to honor the late George Adeeb at The Midnight Mission. George was not a perfect person (none of us are), but he most certainly loved his bride, children and granddaughter and would regularly in addition to supporting the Midnight Mission, was an active volunteer at the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Los Angeles and LA Works (LA Works is organizing a special memorial project this year to honor him) and raised money and walked for many causes. George donated to The Midnight Mission for over 30 years. He passed away on January 10th. In lieu of flowers, his wife (and my friend) Ferrell Marshall asked for donations to The Midnight Mission in memory of George. In support of this cause, I was going to write an article about George and The Mission in hopes to bring more awareness and donations. But then I thought, “If I really want to be ‘ChikFood’, I’d go down there myself and volunteer my time and see what it is all about, first hand.” So, I decided to woman up (instead of man) and made the first available appointment. Which just happened to be after a weekend I had planned to go to Vegas. But, what better way to redeem myself after (what was surely to happen in) Vegas, right?
I was exhausted. When I woke up in the morning, I realized that 24 hours prior I was just going to sleep in another state! But, it was for George. So, I got up. The Midnight Mission is an all men’s facility. So, they recommend that women come with a friend. My great friend, Dawn, offered to come help out. Dawn is also the rockstar who “towed” me across the finish line in my marathon. Needless to say, she’s more than a friend. All the men at the facility kept asking if we were twins and Dawn simply responded, “We’re soul sister’s.” Which they all loved and appreciated.
I’m not going to lie, we were both apprehensive on the way to the facility. Partly because we weren’t sure of what kind of emotional toll this experience was going to take on us and partly because we had to sign a waiver that stated we could possibly “die” working there. So, you know, we were a bit timid pulling in to the parking garage. But, we made it through the gate and into the building. The first thing we heard getting off of the elevator was, “You’re late!” To which Dawn and I said, “I’m sorry,” and the large jovial man who shouted at us burst out laughing, “Go check in and come back here.” So we did.
After putting on our gear: hairnets, gloves and plastic aprons. We were told that the disabled clients come in first, so we would personally bring their trays to the table. The first man I see is dressed nicely and very clean and I’m wondering what he’s doing here? What happened? Is he taking advantage of this program? I soon realize that my perception of “who needs help” and “what the homeless look like” is all a generalization and very ignorant.
After we deliver the trays, we go behind the counter and get ready to serve. I’m on oatmeal and Dawn’s on bread service. We’re told only one serving for each person and (because we are new), they might try to ask for more. “They can come back as many times as they want, but only one serving each time. Don’t let them tell you otherwise,” one worker told us. I was nervous about some unfriendly confrontation. But, to my relief, almost everyone stuck to the protocol and most were very grateful. My oatmeal wasn’t a hit with everyone, but I tried not to take it personally.
By the end, I didn’t want to say one word of how tired I was. These men and women who waited in line, for who knows how long, to get maybe their only meal for the day… They were, most likely, not going to get to crawl back into bed like I had planned on doing.
When Dawn and I returned to my car, we tried to debrief as much as we could. There wasn’t much to say. It was different than we thought it would be and we discussed going back. We talked about how easy it was, being done before 8 am. “But it was…,” I drifted off. “Small,” my soul sister Dawn finished. “It was so small,” I repeated sadly, “It was such a small gesture.” But, we did it and we want to go back. And, additionally, find a women’s shelter in need.
I dropped Dawn off and went back to my house. I wanted so bad to do more good that morning, knowing most of those people don’t get to sleep in a queen sized bed with clean sheets. But, I was tired and I hit the sack anyway. I drifted off into sleep thinking about all the faces I connected with and ones that I was scared to or couldn’t. Hoping next time we go back maybe we will be known as “the soul sister twins”and maybe I can try to be more open.
“If it’s free, it’s for me!” was an Adeeb-ism they quoted at George’s memorial. Well, he certainly didn’t skimp on any cause that was important to him. George donated to this wonderful service for thirty years! Click here to donate in memory of George or here to volunteer for The Midnight Mission.