Donate Dinner – Week 47

Where I Went:
My girls and I volunteered with Meals On Wheels’ Donate Dinner program. For the 5 days leading up to Thanksgiving, volunteers man grocery store entrances handing out information postcards and asking patrons to donate money toward a meal for a homebound senior. Participating customers hand the card to the cashier at checkout and add the amount they’d like to contribute to their total grocery bill. Last year over $200,000 was raised to support the Meals on Wheels program.
First Impressions:
My original plan when exploring the Loaves and Fishes website months ago was to register for a meal delivery time slot on Thanksgiving Day. Alas, all of the spots were filled. How could I be disappointed when people obviously thought way ahead to volunteer? Luckily on the site, I found the information for Donate Dinner.
I spoke with my daughters about the volunteer opportunity and they begged to come with me. (Yes, begged. Please remember that for future reference.) I let them choose the time slot for the grocery store closest to us. They chose Monday from 6:00pm-8:00pm. 
I imagined the bonding experience the girls and I would have serving together for this important cause. Two hours is a perfect amount of time for pre-teens and their mom to hang out, right?  
Oh, I make myself laugh.
The Job:
This had to be one of the most simple serving assignments ever. The instruction video stated to greet each customer, hand out a postcard, and inform him/her to let the cashier know if they choose to donate. Really. Simple.
My eldest determined right away that she would not be talking to anyone. Okay, great. My youngest wanted to talk to everyone, yet couldn’t get the directions quite right. 
New plan: each kid took turns handing out the cards while I explained the directions to each shopper. That entertained my children for a good 10 minutes.
Cool. Only an hour and 50 minutes left.
I love my children more than anything else on this earth. Really, I do. And as well behaved as they are in most situations, when they become bored and stuck in one place, they become irritating.
“How much more time, Mom?”
“An hour and 50 minutes.”
“Now how much more?”
“An hour and 49 minutes.”
And so on.
When there is nothing to say, my eldest starts apologizing for things.
“Mom, I’m sorry I was grouchy this morning.”
“Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t get in the car when you told me to.”
“Mom, I’m sorry I’m bored right now.”
“Mom, I’m sorry I’m irritating you.”
“Mom? Are you mad Mom? Mom, why aren’t you answering me? You’re mad, right Mom?”
“Sweetie, you NEED to stop talking!”
“I knew you were mad at me,” she sulked.
I channeled my inner (G-rated) Chevy Chase.
“You better show me you’re having fun or I’ll force those smiles on you!”
When my youngest is bored, she starts hanging on me.
“Mom, I’m soooo tiiiiired.”
“Honey,” I reminded her, “you said you wanted to volunteer after dinner until 8:00.”
“Yeah, but that’s only ‘cause I wanted to stay up late.”
Now I was done. And we still had an hour and 45 minutes.
Thankfully, the whining and complaining ceased every time the door opened and a customer walked in. The girls handed out cards joyfully, but looked at me with puzzled expressions when someone ignored them and passed by.
One elderly gentleman listened to my pitch and rudely stated he doesn’t donate. My 10 year old patted my arm and consoled, “That’s okay, Mom. He probably gets Meals on Wheels delivered to him.” I hope he was out of earshot.
After an hour, I gave the girls and extended break and bought them sugary treats at the Starbucks kiosk. Once I had them seated at a nearby table, I found my Zen focus and kept that mentality for the rest of my shift.
While there were people who jetted away from us while we attempted to speak to them, the majority of shoppers seemed delighted for the opportunity to donate a meal to a homebound senior. After serving one customer, a cashier rushed to tell us that the woman just donated $125 for the cause. My girls jumped with joy hearing that news.
That made my heart glad. Even though my personal comfort was minutely compromised by whining pre-teens for a couple of hours, I know these same pre-teens will become compassionate givers – hopefully of their time and financial resources.  On this Thanksgiving Day, I am truly grateful for the children God entrusted to me. 
How To Help:
Loaves and Fishes recruits volunteers for their Meals on Wheels program and for kitchen help at their lunch locations year round. Keep the Donate Dinner website handy for next Thanksgiving. Even though I joke about the kid-complaints, it truly is an easy way to have youngsters of all ages help to make a difference in someone’s life.

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends! 

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