Serving up Hope at the Union Gospel Mission

Recently, I was blessed with the opportunity to serve at the Union Gospel Mission’s annual Christmas Meal.  On Saturday, December 9, UGM staff, donors, and volunteers served over 2,600 meals to anyone who needed some warm food or a place to sit for a while.

When my good friend Mavic (who works for UGM) invited me to serve at the 77th annual Christmas Dinner, I re-arranged a couple of things on my schedule so I could do it.  As someone who preaches “walking the talk”, it’s very important for me to serve in addition to inviting others to do so.

Truth be told, Mavic invited me as a “social media influencer” so I could post reflections about my experience afterwards to help spread the word about UGM’s good work.

In the days leading up to the meal, I kept telling Mavic that she was grossly over-estimating my influence haha.  She did her best to assure me that wasn’t the case.

Within 5 minutes of me starting my shift, I forgot about my “role” or my “tasks” and instead fully entered into what I was doing, who I was serving, and who I was meeting.

The busy cafeteria

I was assigned to serve the guests with special needs; thus there were 2 or 3 tables sectioned off near the entrance way.  Fundamentally, my tasks were relatively straightforward:  seat the guests, bring them food and drink and dessert, dispose of any leftover food, and then turn over the tables (including wiping them down and resetting them with place mats, cutlery, and napkins).

I was actually quite lucky: because I was serving the special needs guests, I got to jump to the front of the food line every time.

A few of the amazing volunteers

As well, my La Pergola bus boy experience came in handy as I was easily able to bring 4 or 5 meals to the table at one time haha.

3 years of restaurant experience didn’t hurt!

I was thoroughly enjoying my experience and time was flying by.  Just as I thought my day couldn’t get any better, I met Marcel and  Victor.

I seated both of them at the same time at the same table.  Victor said a quiet thank you as we got to the table, while Marcel gave me an emphatic fist bump.

As I continued with my duties, I spotted Mavic out of the corner of my eye.  Remembering my social media influencer “role”, I asked her if she could snap a few pictures that I could post later.

Recalling the fist bump, I first approached Marcel about the photo opportunity.

“Why do you want a picture with me?” he asked.

“So I can remember you,” I answered.  “And so I can remember this experience.”

“Nah…I don’t want a picture with you,” Marcel stated rather grumpily.

Admittedly, my heart sunk a bit.  I thought we were buddies.  I don’t just fist bump anyone, you know.

“But I WILL take a picture with HER!!!” Marcel exclaimed as he pointed to Mavic.

I burst into laughter.  I’ve known Mavic for over a dozen years since her elementary school days.  I’ve been her youth minister and her supervisor.  I’ve witness her mature into a beautiful, mature, intelligent young woman.

“I don’t blame you, Marcel,” I said.  “She is way better-looking than me.”

So I took Mavic’s camera, snapped a shot of her and Marcel, and then prayed I wouldn’t get rejected again.

“How about you, Victor?” I asked.  “Would you take a picture with me?”

Thankfully, Victor obliged.  Mavic had him sign the appropriate release form and then I moved into position.

Click.

Success.

With my new friend Victor

I shook Victor’s hand and complimented him on his Seattle Seahawks toque.

“They are Canucks colours as well!” Victor pointed out.

“I know….yet another reason I love your toque!” I remarked.  “I’m a big Canucks fan.  And a big Seahawks fan.”

“Me too!”

Oh yeah….I momentarily forgot that Marcel was still at the table.  Despite my hurt feelings (haha), I asked him why he liked the Seahawks.

“They’re a good football team,” he said.  “I like the Green Bay Packers as well.”

“Yeah, they’re good,” I said.

“And I like the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

“Okay.”

“And the Dallas Cowboys.  And the Oakland Raiders.  And the….”

“Stop!” I interrupted, “You’re just naming any team you can think of now.”

Marcel stopped and looked at me with a sheepish grin on his face.  The kind of grin that your kid gives you when he knows he’s in trouble.  Not major trouble.  But just enough trouble.

He didn’t have to say anything aloud.

But his face said, “You got me.”

Soon, it was time for Marcel and Victor to cede their seats to other guests.  I gave each of them a gentle hug with a “God bless you, bro.”

I finished my shift with a huge smile on my face as I recalled the humourous exchanges with both guys.

As my shift came to an end,  Mavic and I escaped for a quick debrief.  She sent me the photos she took and we recorded a few stories for Instagram.  I joyfully shared my experiences and recounted the numerous examples of hope and joy that I witnessed.

As I was leaving, Mavic thanked me and said, “You touched a lot of lives today.”

“Perhaps,” I replied.  “But your guests blessed me more than I blessed them.”

And I’m forever grateful.

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