On some Tuesday and Friday nights during my senior year, I would walk into the small basement of St. James Church in my hometown. I would immediately smell all the food being prepared in the kitchen and see volunteers setting up tables and serving food. My friend and I would usually go to this church to fulfill our service hour requirement for our senior year. Although I had to volunteer somewhere to get credit for school, I liked coming to St. James because of the people I got to see every week.
Going to serve there always humbled me. I would always think about how after I was done volunteering I got to go home to a warm house and have dinner with my family, and after that, I'd be able to take a warm shower and sleep in a comfortable bed. I always thought about what the people who came to the soup kitchen did after they left the small church. I wondered if they had anywhere to stay, or if they got to sleep underneath warm blankets like I was lucky enough to.
The thought of what their lives were actually like kept me coming back to serve food and interact with them every week.
I still have vivid memories of certain moments that caused me to stop and think, like when people have come into the small church when we were cleaning up and asked if we had any leftover food that they could package up and take with them for the night. Or when a man came in and asked if we had a candle that he could take because when it got cold at night the candle helped give him some form of warmth. Or how I would see countless numbers of children come in, shivering from the cold and hungry, and still be patient and respectful when standing in the long line for food.
All of these experiences have made me take a step back and think about how much I take for granted in my own life, but I remember one moment in particular when I was standing in the serving line and an older man came down the line clutching a plate in one hand and shaking the servers' hands with the other. He didn't walk very well, but he slowly made his way down the line, more interested in talking to us than in the food he was receiving. When he came to me, he asked for my name. Then he shook my hand and said to me, "God bless you, Hannah. It's nice to meet you. Thank you."
I remember being completely in awe of this man as I told him that it was my pleasure and that it was nice to meet him, too.
To this day, I still think about the gratitude and faith of that man. Despite the situation that he was in at the time, he still had faith in God because of what he was being given and took time to thank me for being able to provide him with it. I thought about how many times I had taken my own fortunes for granted, and I felt guilty for ever complaining to God about my own troubles. The man at the soup kitchen took the time to ask for my name and personally thank me for what I was doing for him.
He wasn't ungrateful for his troubles. He was thankful for what he had been given.
I think that his gratitude is something that we all can learn from. If the man that I met on that day was going through anything like what I had seen from other visitors in the past (and I'm sure he was), he had every reason to be bitter and angry with his situation. But instead, he chose to be thankful for the opportunities and people that God had given him, and I was so humbled to see that lived out right in front of me. God shows His unchanging love to us every day, and as long as we are grateful for what we have been given like the man in the soup kitchen was, we can find happiness in whatever situation we are faced with.