November is National Gratitude Month. We continue — gratefully! — with our articles about generosity and thankfulness.
Forty-seven years ago on a cold fall morning I walked into an unmarked building on Union Street in Pasadena where twenty men were waiting to be fed. My first stint as a volunteer had begun. I was terrified. Bill Doulos had signed me up to work at Union Station, and I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. There was coffee but little bread and peanut butter to make sandwiches, and I felt helpless as these men waited patiently and politely for me to come up with something else for them to eat. In desperation I opened the cupboard and found an enormous can of catsup and an equally large container of Cremora. Without any hope of success I heated the two items in an effort to make tomato soup. When I finally got the Cremora lumps out of the liquid, I served up the concoction, I took a lot of ribbing and teasing, but people ate it, and I relaxed. I was so grateful such a silly idea had worked, but more grateful for the kindness and compassion the "patrons," as Bill called them, had shown me. I left my shift with a light heart, excited to return the following week.
Through all the years of volunteering at Union Station and with Dinners in the Park, I always felt uplifted spending time with the patrons. The people whom I served were wonderful human beings who had troubles and issues but whose hearts felt larger than my own, and I was honored. I was grateful to have known so many vulnerable but courageous individuals.
While my children were in school I volunteered for many projects and activities, all of which I enjoyed, but none gave me the sense of gratitude and appreciation I had known working at Union Station. So twenty years ago, when I learned Bill had started a new ministry with Jubilee homes, I changed churches and started coming to COS to see if I could be part of his work. I dove into managing events for the houses and serving on the board. But my happiest times have been interacting with the residents of the homes at events like the monthly dinners, Dodger games, and the Christmas party. This group of addicts and alcoholics are working so hard, with open hearts, to turn their lives around, and I could not be more grateful to be part of the fabric that addresses their basic daily needs so they can work on that recovery. In many ways the residents remind me of the patrons at Union Station. There is such wealth of spirit in these individuals, and I am so grateful to have known and served them. They have enriched my life immeasurably. And each interaction with Jubilee Homes puts a spring in my step, just like it did on that cold fall day forty-seven years ago.