My daughter, Jenna, and I volunteered at the local food bank on Saturday. Truth to be told – she wanted to do it, I willed myself to do it. It’s not because I don’t like helping others, I’m just really stingy with my time.
We got to the food bank a few minutes late so most of the jobs were already assigned. We were handed a pair of latex gloves each and given our tasks. Jenna got to hand out sugar-free fudge pops and I was asked to hand out handfuls of tomatillos to those who came through the line. Seemed pretty easy, right?
When the doors opened and the flood of individuals came through the line, I found I was actually jealous of others who had cool stuff to hand out like packs of strawberries and even my daughter with the ice cream. I mean, no one knew what on earth a tomatillo was and if you’ve seen one, they aren’t the most attractive of foods to be giving to someone in need! The first handful I tried to grab, I noticed my fingernails would catch on the latex gloves and made it even more difficult of a task. Great.
Immediately I went into my competitive mode and thought, “Tomatillos, you are going home with these folks!” and there I was at the food bank explaining to people who have never met me that they should trust that these wrinkly, paper-skinned pepper-like veggies were also just as cool and equally delicious as the plain strawberries and bananas were! Step right up and get some!
Well, they bought my spiel, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how difficult a handful of tomatillos would be to grab and put in someone’s bag. And not just one handful, but hundreds of handfuls over the course of three hours. Every time I went to scoop these scrumptious veggies up (or are they technically a “fruit” for all you smart gardening folks out there?) my fingernails got caught in the latex gloves and were slowing me down and making the volunteer work more arduous than it needed to be.
By the end of my four-hour shift – and nine pallets of tomatillos later, my hands ached from the work. One of the leads for the work came over and high-fived me for unloading the pallets of strange-looking foods. (Poor tomatillos not getting a fair shot in the produce limelight!) My fingers continued to throb and it slightly concerned me as I knew I needed to be able to type later in the day (um, that’s what I do for a living.)
As I rubbed my sore digits and walked to my car, I looked over the sea of volunteers and stopped. What a selfish brat I was being. I got to the job late because I really didn’t want to do it. I was proud of myself for taking a task and finishing like a champ. I had sore fingers because my fingernails got in the way of the job. I was jealous because others got cooler stuff to hand out. What the hell is wrong with me?
As a group, we just fed 600 families in four hours. I met some really great people both volunteering and those who were in line. My daughter talked for hours about how much she appreciates our full refrigerator of food now. Good grief, at forty-two – – I still continue to learn valuable life lessons.
When Jenna and I got home, we were both exhausted. She fell asleep on the couch almost instantly. Me? I went in the bathroom and clipped off all my fingernails. I will never let something so trivial get in the way of me experiencing a life-changing event again.
Q: What’s in your way and keeping you from something great?