Last night while out at my regular Friday night activity our club made some announcements about how we’d be supporting our community this Christmas. I am a big fan of dialing up the charitable activity at the holidays so I listened with interest as the coordinator described the benefactor of our group initiative
Our small town suffers with homelessness and hunger the way all communities do. Our goal as a group is to support these individuals by contributing a few things to the Grace Cafe where they are offered a warm meal and opportunity to socialize in a beautifully renovated cozy atmosphere. The items were listed for us:
2. Hats and Mitts
3. Cash donations (to buy to the food for the soup kitchen)
4. Tim Horton’s gift cards
I was following along with sincere interest until she spoke of the Tim’s cards. Excuse me…what? Are coffee and donuts what they really need? I thought to myself.
I spotted it right away and felt the wave of shame wash over me along with the thought, ‘who am I to judge what they need?’ But the though lingered and I didn’t like it.
My judgments comes from old ideas that somehow people get themselves into these situations. They probably made bad decisions, maybe did drugs, didn’t pay their bills, got kicked out, lost their connections etc. If you’ve begun to judge me right now for even saying that stick around because there is a lesson here. The coordinator of this charitable endeavour then goes into further detail about how the Tim’s cards should be in $5 denominations and they could really use as many as possible. The ‘judgey’ me thinks ‘wow, can I drink your double double for you too?’ It’s only when she explained WHY they needed those $5 Tim’s cards that I began to soften. She described that the Grace Cafe is open limited hours because it operates solely on volunteer help. They do not solicit any monies from the community. Anything they receive is given from the generosity of people who know about the work being done there. A soup kitchen and essentially a ‘home’ for the less fortunate is a big time consuming operation. Is it is not open 24/7 and Sundays they are closed. So as we are sitting down for our Sunday family dinner someone in my home town has an empty stomach and no place to gather.
I judged too soon and was feeling the sting of embarrassment for it. As with anything though I’m open to learning from my mistakes. So I plan to learn more about this Cafe and lean into the discomfort this has all taught me.
"As I get older, the more I stay focused on the acceptance of myself and others, and choose compassion over judgment and curiosity over fear."
Tracee Ellis Ross
Every Canadian knows that Tim Horton’s is “the place” for a cup of coffee. Now, the menu has expanded to offer soup and so much more. It’s also the most epic meeting place consistently across the country. Every time that I’ve walked into a Timmie’s there are always groups of friends and/or family sitting side by side in cozy booths. Most locations have the cutest fireplace going and cheery music playing overhead. They’ve mastered the art of connection by offering this consistently 24/7 in most locations. They are open Sundays. They have warm food and a welcoming space. See where I’m going here?
The five dollar gift cards are distributed accordingly from Grace Cafe to its recipients on Saturdays to provide food and warmth and most of all, dignity to people who need it most on the days when the Cafe is not open. Now I get it.
I’m trying to give myself some grace around those judgmental thoughts I had. I’ll be picking up $5 cards first off but I want to learn more about the Grace Cafe and see how I can perhaps help even further. I’ll be spending some time learning about the services they offer and how they operate. I’d also like to find a way to allow my children to participate in some way. I believe that listening to someone else’s story is the key to ending the preconceived notions about why someone may need the services in the first place. Human connection is vital, listening is where is begins.
Empathy and compassion are the traits I’d like to pass on to my kids. I’m taking action to dissolve the rest and keep my heart wide open. I have no space for judgement any longer.