Life Lessons from a Homeless Shelter


oreoPeople are basically good. I believe we all want to do the right thing. It’s just that sometimes our couches get way too cozy. Two times a year, my friend Dawn organizes the tuna casseroles and gathers a crew to staff a soup kitchen for our church’s rotation. We’ve been doing it for three years now. I’m on cookie duty which means I simply show up with 500 Oreos. I bring the kids because it’s good for them. Not too tough. Yet sadly, I only go twice a year when Dawn reminds me. I guess we get busy. 
This year, our rotation came around on a sunny Friday in April. Since the weather was so nice, both kids complained that they didn’t want to go.

“I don’t want to go either.” I said. “But it’s just something we’ve got to do.” I was tired from a long, fruitless day of job hunting and feeling like I was the less fortunate myself. Just that day, I’d received a rejection email that read:

We have reviewed your resume/CV and have decided to pursue other candidates who are more qualified for this position.

Take Your Daughter to Work Day 2007?
Seriously? A real person had to write that. Even if it was possible (that there could be someone more qualified), which I seriously doubt, couldn’t they write something like: “I’m sorry it’s not you, it’s me. Your talents and accomplishments are amazing. But our small-sighted company just can’t commit to a brilliant and creative marketing pro like you at this time. Really, it’s our issue, not yours.”

Then here was the kicker: We encourage you to review other open positions at our career site…

Really? So they could write me more stimulating and motivational notes? It’s the rejection letter equivalent of “can we still be friends?” Well, the answer is NO. And when I choose small business credit card processing services, I’ll take my business elsewhere and then they’ll know the fury of a job applicant scorned. I didn't really want your darned VP job anyway. So there.    

This was my mood when I packed the kids in the car. Since my husband was home early that day, he came along too. For reasons of schedules or the aforementioned comfortable-couch problem, he’d never been before.    

My Work Crew enjoying Art for All 
At the kitchen, my husband manned the casseroles with his friend Chris. My kids passed out cookies with their friend Jacob. For some reason, passing out cookies is extremely popular with my two. Go figure. We teach them to greet each person and look them in the eye and smile. I handed out the waters and did the same. The line formed quickly and I was pleased to see that there were a few less people than our fall visit. I was hoping it meant the economy was on the upswing. But the kitchen manager said it was probably just that the weather was nice. My husband was soon a pro at filling plates. Who knew he was so good in the kitchen?

All of the line participants were pleasant and appreciative. It felt good to be doing something for someone else and soon my mood lifted. One man made a point of saying to me, “Thank you for this meal. May God return the blessing to you that you have given to us this day.”

I thought about my own joblessness and how easily our positions could be switched. And though it was a nice thing to say, it was probably just that.

Afterwards, our serving crew met at a pub for drinks and dinner. And despite the fact that my husband and I are cutting back on expenses, going out is still something we can afford to do. Just less often. There was a feeling of camaraderie at having done something good. The bounty of our own blessings was apparent, good friends, sweet kids, nice clothes and fun places to go.

When we were leaving, my husband made a point of stopping Dawn to thank her for organizing it. “I got so much more than I gave,” he said. “Thank you.”

The following Monday, a job didn’t suddenly drop in my lap from the man’s blessing. Life is more subtle than that. But I opened my ebook’s page on Amazon to see a 5-Star gift bestowed on me in the form of an outstanding review. It was from a woman reader, a complete stranger. And it was pure gold. She loved my book, said it was LOL. It’s moments like these, when you just know we are not abandoned and not alone.  

And once again, I got back so much more than I gave.  

Margee Moore is a marketing professional, current job seeker and mother of two. Her book “Sleeping with the Laundry: Notes from the Mommy Track” is now available on Kindle. Share your thoughts with me at editor@moxiemom.com


Listen to this post on NPR station WVXU, Around Cincinnati with host Lee Hay. First aired June 24, 2012.  Enjoy! 

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