I just ate some noodles. If we have interacted for more than five minutes, this shouldn’t surprise you, noodles are my favorite food group. Noodles = Happy.
In a way, Food = Happy, doesn’t it? When my sister and I go out to eat we can’t wiggle into the booth at Mellow Mushroom fast enough. Of course, that’s for pizza, so perhaps Carbs = Happy. We love to eat.
Conversely, when I’m hungry I get this sorrowful feeling I usually inflict on those around me. You know, the grumpy and tense mental landscape we’ve all experienced when we waited too long to eat. Welcome to the twenty-first century, where you’ll probably get so distracted you’ll forget lunch. Those Snicker’s commercials didn’t come out of nowhere, “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry.” But what if you hadn’t eaten because you forgot, but because you didn’t have any food or anyplace to cook it?
When I was in Atlanta over the summer, seeing Swami, standing in front of a life size bust of Sekhmet, Egypt’s golden Lioness whose breath created the desert, sleeping in an ashram and eating delicious food at Yeah! Burger – I also had the opportunity to participate in the Street Meals program. Every Tuesday evening volunteers go to Kashi Atlanta and prepare food and every Wednesday volunteers deliver and serve the food at a homeless shelter.
When I arrive with the other volunteers on Wednesday I feel comfortable because I serve food for a living. I deliver countless plates of twenty dollar spaghetti, high-end meat balls, extra-terrestrial sausage and, ironically, all the free salad you could ever want. At the shelter, my first job was to put napkins and plastic forks on the tables while people come in. It is a large space with circular tables arranged for maximum occupancy. Women and men came in almost as eager to put down the burden of their packs and cargo with which they walk the streets as they were to eat. Everyone was friendly and glad to be inside; it was a hot Georgia day and the sun was relentless. Inside the shelter, they have cups of cool water and air-conditioning.
Everyone was seated before we started serving the food. I’d been waiting on that moment my whole life, trained like a samurai in the art of food service, my skillz honed to a razor sharp edge; I knew they’d need a water re-fill without even looking in the cup, I balanced three plates of pasta salad like a Zen koan poised at the pinnacle of my perfectly still mind, its solution as reasonable as the lady who asked for more bread so she could take some with her for later. She had pencil thin legs sticking out of frayed denim shorts and plugged into dirty white high-top tennis shoes. She looped the plastic bag containing the bread through a belt loop so the baguettes knocked against her leg like a gun holster when she walked.
There is one man who stands out in my mind, the friendliest face of the day. He came in late, his duffel on the chair beside him at the empty table in the back, near the water cooler. We were already offering seconds and chocolates to the children who were there with their mother, seated at the front in a row of chairs near the window.
He has black hair that stands up from his head like long, thick sprouts of grass. He is about my size with an ambling gate that makes me think he likes to dance or he studies kung fu. He has on a drab green collared shirt and loose fitting khaki pants with boots that are scuffed and worn. His shirt is tucked neatly into his wrinkled khakis. His face is round with high cheek bones like my friend from the Philippines. I hand him his plate and his smile turns his eyes into deep creases, so that they look like window blinds closed to the bright afternoon sun, only dark glimmering joy revealed through his sparse eyelashes.
Because I’m a good waitress, I ask him if he is alright. He looks up at me and curls his lips to speak in broken English, “I was hungry!” His smile adheres to his face while he chews. The exclamation is one of pure relief. Absent from his demeanor was any bitterness, sadness, or shame. He was just so happy, and it was a happiness that was contagious.
I wondered about him after I left. I still see him so clearly in my mind. I wondered how he ended up there, what kind of work he might have done, what his dreams are. I wonder about him when it rains and I remember him when I wait too long to eat and then feel the elation of a delicious bowl of pasta or a veggie burger from Red Robbin.
Before I went to Street Meals, I wanted you to sponsor me in the Yoga-Thon Fundraisers because I love Kashi Atlanta and believe in the work they do. Kashi just had its twenty year anniversary, and in that time they have fed countless homeless people and created who knows how many kids’ art projects in hospitals. Kashi Atlanta is my spiritual home and where I go to see my beloved Teacher, Swami Jaya Devi. It is where I go for yoga training and to refill my emotional well. But now this fundraising feels personal and more imperative because I got to experience the benefit of it through that man’s eyes.
The money you donate buys food the volunteers prepare on Tuesday. It’s the bread that that woman takes with her when she goes back to her home on the street, and it’s the pasta salad that made that man so happy. We were able to offer second plates of food and pieces of chocolate to children because of the donations Kashi receives. This is the time of year most of the money that sustains the service programs comes in. As a yoga and meditation teacher who studies at Kashi Atlanta, this is an opportunity for you to show through your support that you benefit from my continued studies and training with my Teacher.
If we are fortunate enough to have everything we need, then it’s our gift to share what we have. Please follow this link to donate. Your gift is 100% tax deductible and you will receive a letter from Kashi Atalanta for your tax records. Thank you, thank you, thank you. https://kashiatlanta.ejoinme.org/MyEvents/KashiAtlanta2018Yogathon/Fundraising/tabid/1000163/Default.aspx?joinme=173207