By Hemn Alee, Iraq
I was not quite sure what it was all about. We were ten passionate teachers seeking to engage in as much new experiences as we could. When we arrived, I was impressed by the beautifully made church. I had seen churches on TV or the net before, but it was my first time finding myself in front of such a grand architectural structure with its massive pinnacle. Before we entered, three meaningful words on the gate caught my attention; “Not Bread Alone”. Inside, I saw several people working passionately, all voluntarily, to prepare the food for dinner and we were there to help them. It was a community service program aimed at providing meals for homeless and needed people. Soon after welcoming us warmly, we were distributed and instructed on how to prepare our respective ingredients for dinner. Everything seemed so neat and organized. Working in pairs, we started serving enthusiastically.
Everyone was busy making different kinds of dishes; Piazzas, couscous, pasta, sandwiches, salad, vegetables, soup and desserts and many more were all being made in different tastes. Amira and I were making salad and some different sandwiches. It was so inspiring and heartening to see all these people working so ardently for a pure altruistic cause! We finished making the dishes at around 4:00. Soon after that, the visitors started arriving, one after another. While we were serving the food, they all showed gratitude and respect by for our help and effort, both verbally and by their body language. Then, after receiving their meals, they started friendly discussions among themselves. They seemed to had known each other for ages. It was touching to see all these different people, despite all their differences, hardships and agonies, can be so understanding and affectionate for each other!
While I was observing them carefully, I wondered what might had led each of them to be dependent on others and what might their individual stories be. And then, morally aroused, I asked myself; why there should be such homeless and needy people in the most developed economy on earth? Who is responsible for that? Soon after I knew knowing the answerers would not help them anyway.
After hours of working hard, we finished around 6:30 PM and the visitors started disappearing. We were all tired but the result of this selfless, compassionate and noble act of generosity was sheer bliss and internal satisfaction and it inspired me to think about initiating such a program in my home town community. After all, what reward is bigger than this mental contentment you get through such self-denying and generous acts? For me, none!
All opinions expressed by the program participants are their own and do not represent nor reflect official views from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, or of the Institute for Training and Development, Inc.