“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”-James Baldwin
In this month of gratitude and giving, I used my time earlier this week to volunteer. Hale Kau Kao food kitchen has a saying, “Feeding with compassion and Aloha.” The building, at St. Theresa’s’ Church, 25 West Lipoa Street in Kihei, is celebrating their twenty-third year serving food to those in need. They are also proud to say that their doors have not closed in that time even when emergencies have occurred among the staff.
Time to Step In
I arrived at the requested 1:30 check-in time, not sure what to expect. I met Oliver who helped me get started as we prepped the salad, removing the dead leafs from the fresh mix while breaking it up into edible pieces. Bruce, the chef, is the only paid staff member. He states that he use to volunteer for three years before accepting his current position of four months. He moves with assurance as he keeps the rest of us busy to meet the 4:30 dinner time.
While he prepares the entrée of baked chicken and chicken stir-fry, I move on to my next task, cutting pineapples. There is a lesson in this but I can’t figure it out. All I know is that I have to hack away the tough exterior to find the jewel inside. We will serve the thick, fleshy, yellow fruit with the salad. Oliver assists instructing me on the correct way to approach the intimidating food. Noah, another volunteer, and I hack away until the container finally empties.
The staff takes a break for 30 minutes before we start our assembly line of prepping the food trays. I wander the grounds shooting a few photos here and there. Soon, people begin to gather around the picnic tables waiting until the service window opens. When I return, the trays for the homebound are in preparation. Ruby, another volunteer of five years, organizes each routes pick-up for the drivers. She knows which are diabetics, the special requests and any other small detail.
Once this is complete, we move towards those who are lining up outside. Security patrols the area but everyone is on their best behavior. Baked chicken with soy sauce, rice, salad, pineapple and donuts for desert provides a well-balanced meal. The hot food gives those who live on the street, something decent for the day before they move on. I can tell that some of these people are regulars just by the way the staff interacts with them. For a moment, a feeling of humbleness came over me. How blessed I am to have shelter and choices in food, clothes and other things I take for granted.
Compliments about the meal go to Bruce. Others thank the staff for serving them and then they disappear. A passage from the Beatles song, Eleanor Rigby comes to mind.
“All the lonely people, Where do they all come from? All the lonely people, Where do they all belong?”
The answer, they belong to us. They are a part of the human race of which we are meant to care and serve.