Thursday, June 21, 2012

Soup Kitchen Birthday

I saw a soup kitchen birthday.

I found myself at a soup kitchen on Thursday, June 14, 2012.
As communications director for the South Plains Food Bank part of my job is to find clients willing to speak to us for our hard copy newsletter that gets mailed out about four times a year.

I was at the soup kitchen with a group from California that assists us with gathering interviews and writing the client stories for the newsletter.

There were lots of people there that day to eat lunch – for most of them it was just another day.

But for Yasmin it was a special day.

It was her Birthday. She was turning four years-old.
I watched as the soup kitchen volunteers handed a small gift sack to her. The toddler’s eyes lit up. She pulled at the crumpled up tissue paper – uncovering a Barbie doll and a stuffed animal. Both of which she cuddled throughout the lunch.

One of the volunteers made the announcement that it was Yasmin’s Birthday and led everyone in the traditional Birthday song. They had two day old donated bakery birthday cake, but no candles. Her name wasn’t on the cake, which had already been cut and put into little serving boats. No balloons or little friends to giggle with as she opened her gift.
I cried. I had to step outside because I couldn’t hold it together.

It still makes me cry.

It will haunt me forever.

It changed me forever.
Watching such joy on Yasmin’s face as she opened her one present and hearing everyone sing to her – and witnessing the exceptional kindness of those volunteers made my heart hurt.

It all hit pretty close to home. I have never been homeless, but I know what it is like to have no gift to give your child.
Connor was turning 2 and I had no money. We had found out just three months before that he had type 1 diabetes. I had only been employed full-time for about a month.

I purchased his cake that year using SNAP (food stamps) benefits, but had no money for a gift. I watched as everyone else brought him something, but I had nothing to give him. The Christmas before had been the same way – he would have had nothing under the borrowed tree if it hadn’t been for friends, co-workers, family and even strangers who knew what a difficult time we were having.

It was humbling for me – then and now.
Birthdays should be celebrated – especially by children.

No child should have a soup kitchen birthday.

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