Friday, May 04, 2007

The Milk People

The kitchen is an independently run organization. We don't receive any sort of government assistance and it actually works out better that way. Without government help, we don't need to follow annoying government regulations and we aren't accountable to anyone except our Board of Directors. Plus, we can be liberal about things like handing out medicine...which falls in sort of a gray area otherwise.

As a result, we pretty much subsist on the generosity of others. There is no shortage of donations from local organizations and individuals. The kitchen has been around a while, so people in the area know they can always drop off extras for us to use. And really we can make do of anything.

A few examples...Every few weeks, we get leftover donuts from one of the local churches following their service. We leave them outside in our waiting area, and they go a long way toward quelling the appetites of the customers until lunch is ready. Last spring a local butcher gave us 400 lbs. of pork loin, which lasted nearly 6 months. A couple months ago, a couple brought in a few hundred chicken wings, leftovers from their Super Bowl Party. The list is virtually endless, but there are two in particular that I want to highlight. I call them the milk people.

The milk people are a father and his 8 year old daughter. Every Sunday around 9 AM they bring us 2 gallons of milk. Both of them always have friendly smiles on their faces as they walk to the dining room to put the milk away in the fridge. Even though the girl struggles with the weight of the containers, she always insists on carrying both of them herself. After putting the milk away, they thank us and head out.

I mention the milk people for two reasons. The first is that even though the kitchen has a budget and receives ample donations, milk is the one commodity we do always need. Given a choice of pop, juice, lemonade, and milk, 90% of the customers will go for the milk. If you think about it...sugary drinks are cheap, affordable, and can be stored anywhere. You can buy a two liter of a generic carbonated beverage for under a dollar, take a swig, cap it, and it'll be good for a few weeks. Milk is more expensive and obviously doesn't keep so well. So the donation the milk people give us makes a lot of the customers happy.

The second reason I wanted to bring up the milk people is this...volunteering in a place like the kitchen, you can't help but feel jaded. You constantly see people whose lives are going nowhere, a lot of them in dire situations with no promise of future hope. Everyday you have to deal with scammers and liars, looking to exploit you and score anything extra. Even some of the drop-in college students are when they promise to come back the following week, not even bothering to hide the "get me the hell out of here" expressions on their faces. (I know these people well, since I used to be one.) I'd like to think this general cynicism about people is limited to time spent at the kitchen, but in truth it carries over. I know I've become more suspicious and wary of people and situations in my daily life, and I don't like it.

The point is amongst all the shadiness and deceit and sadness, the fact that there exists something so pure and innocent as a little girl wanting to carry two heavy gallons of milk to give to people less fortunate...well, that just gets to me. What a tremendous father that girl has to be showing his daughter the importance of helping others at such a young age. I carry a mental snapshot of that girl and her father. Anytime I need a pick me up or a reminder that there is some good in the world, I think of them and can't help but smile. Thanks, Milk People.


Anonymous Katie said...

That story brought a tear to my eye. Please keep the writing up!

3:36 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Like I said before, this post was brought to us by Kleenex.

Maybe I should start volunteering at the soup kitchen...

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, it brought a tear to my eye, too.

I help out in a soup kitchen, tii. I'm so glad I found your blog! It's been awesome so far.

8:31 AM  
Blogger n said...

thanks everyone for the comments!

11:12 PM  
Anonymous liz said...

i used to work in a soup kitchen too, but i never got to interact with the homeless. looking forward to reading more!

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Ron said...

If you're where I think you are (guessing from your posts), I think I volunteered at the same kitchen when I was a student, about 15 years ago. I'm glad to see it's still around

8:17 PM  

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