I went into Atlantic City early yesterday morning so I could help prepare lunch for the 300+ people who would be visiting Sister Jean's kitchen around 12:30 or so. I presented myself at the door for the first time and saw a host of people in aprons standing around, chatting, and apparently awaiting instructions. A woman inquired of me - "what can I help you with?" I said, "I am here to see Jesus..." and we both smiled. I told her I had kitchen experience and she said "Sister Jean!! I got one for ya!"
I had no expectations of meeting the woman I had heard and read so much about, but there she was grinning at me over her eye glasses, all 5' nothing of her, and she said, "well come on in and I'll put you to work."
Did she ever. I have never used a stock pot that held 40 gallons of anything and there I saw five or six on the stove, bubbling away with chicken parts in it...we prepared chicken and gravy, rice, spaghetti, corn, fried fish and homemade cake for dessert. She always makes sure there is a treat for her guests at the end of the meal.
I was so awed in so many different respects -- there were real dishes -- not paper and plastic. They were eclectic by today's standards, which makes me smile as I type it recalling the Lenox china plates alongside the melanin plastic plates with holly leaves adorning the sides...there was real silverware and plastic drinking glasses to drink their cranberry or apple juice or iced tea with.
There were volunteers set up by the food and steam table, serving up the plates to servers who would take them out to the diners ala restaurant style - and the portions! I was humbled to see how much was put on each plate and if, God forbid, somebody on the line skimped, we could hear sister bellowing from the kitchen. One of the first things I discovered about her is she is feisty, feisty -- "Been a chef for over 35 years - someone's got to run the kitchen...."
I worked alongside volunteers who were serving their community service for whatever crimes they committed and was genuinely grinning at each one of them for their nicknames "Texas," "Rescue," "Robin Hood," and the nickname they gave me - "Irish" - because I tend to get extremely red in the face when I get over-heated. They were a wonderful lot and when I asked the one guy I worked closely with the entire time if I'd see him next week, he replied, "I can't really say - I take each day as it comes," which was a gentle reminder of his station in life, the pain behind the words was present as he looked wistfully at the fish frying in the fryer. He looked back at me and finished with, "If I am here Tuesday, will you be here to?" I said, "Yep - the good Lord willing, right?"
Sister feeds the volunteers, at which I declined politely and helped her feed her staff - I was more thirsty than I was hungry - and we chatted a bit. She thanked me for being there and said "I couldn't have done it without you today -- it's nice to have someone in the kitchen who has experience!" and I looked at her and said, "oh, yes you would have, you've done it for a long time before today...." She grinned at me and we talked of when she starts serving breakfast in October and my ability to come in early one or two days a week to help her get things prepped and going. It was a good day.
A lot of people would suggest that I need to be still and wait on the Lord, that I need quiet time and space; to that I say "no thank you - idle hands are the devil's workshop." My past few months have proven that time and again and instead of lamenting and beating my chest over my predicament any longer, I am settled in with my full-time OB position (unless I get a phone call), thanking God I am able to volunteer what time I have, and taking care of my family and leaving the rest to God.