As many of you know, the show Chopped on the Food Network never ceases to be a source of inspiration for this blog. Last night was no different, albeit for different reasons. The cheftestants were not those who work as restaurant chefs, private chefs, or even culinary instructors. They were those who worked in non-profit organizations preparing food for those we so often call “the least of thee.” One cooked for the Fresh Air Fund and others cooked for various homeless shelters. It was the story of one of the cheftestants who talked about going from being homeless to being able to cook at the shelter that moved me. It reminded me of a time in my own life when I had almost become homeless. His story also moved me because of how they served their clients in the homeless shelter. Their dining facility did not have line that people went through, but was set up like a restaurant with menus and a volunteer staff that served as wait staff.
His story reminded of a conversation between Ram Das and one of his teachers.
Ram Das: How will I know God?
Teacher: Feed people.
Ram Das: How will I become enlightened?
Teacher: Serve them.
Sometimes we become so accustomed to being served at a dining facility that we take this experience for granted. I could only begin to imagine what it must be like for those who dine at this facility to be served and waited on; to remember what it is like to be treated with dignity and respect. I can only begin to imagine what it is like for the servers as well. Is this act of literally serving the least of thee enlightening?
I know every time I have the opportunity to feed and serve people it is a humbling experience for me. To watch the looks on their faces as they experience the meal the Ultimate has helped me prepare is priceless and it makes cooking for those I love more of a ministry, than an obligation.
When I was in seminary, and more ambulatory, I would periodically offer to buy a meal for one of the homeless people I saw near a restaurant and then sit, eat, and talk with them. Eating them was always so enlightening and humbling. It always reminded me of how we have far more in common with each other then we can imagine and how all food continues to be a universal language of love between cultures and groups of people. Whether one is rich or homeless, we all need to eat and we all enjoy sharing a meal with others. This is one reason we keep our doors open on all holidays. We always welcome anyone the Universe sends our way to share a meal. Sometimes we need to be the one who feeds and sometimes we need to be the one who is fed. We need to experience what it is like to be blessed and enlightened and allow ourselves to be used to contribute to others blessing and enlightenment.