Monday, December 11, 2006

Thanksgiving with the Mayor at Pine Street Inn

On Thanksgiving Day I volunteered for 3 or 4 hours at the Pine Street Inn. They have an annual holiday feast for the guests. I helped to set up tableware, serve food, clean up. It is a very enriching and humbling experience. I recommend volunteering for activities like this to all because it is impossible to come away from it without being more thankful about how lucky most of us are, and isn't that the point of Thanksgiving?

The dynamics and the people are fascinating. There was the father with his young sons around 8 to 14, taking charge of setting up the upper dining room in proper order. They do it every year. There were the middle aged cousins from the North Shore who got up at 4 a.m. to take the train into Boston because they were not sure exactly how the trains and public transportation were going to get there. Volunteers were young and old, all races, eager to do their part.

The Mayor comes in and tours the facility with the photographers and TV cameras, welcoming everyone with a hearty "Happy Thanksgiving". He caught me while I was pouring water at the tables. Some staff were grumbling that they wish that he would not come, because he just delays everything with his photo-ops. While I agree that the process could be a bit more friendly to the time crunch of the staff and guests, I applaud the Mayor for bringing the press to raise awareness of the homeless situation in Boston. He comes every year, and a man in his position does not have to do that. I also applaud Councilor Felix Arroyo who came, unannounced, without the press, and spent real time helping to serve the traditional turkey meal just as any other layperson volunteer.

The dynamics were fascinanting to me. Many of the volunteers sort of huddled together when the guests arrived for the meal, unsure at first of how to act. A number of the guests were bewildered as well, coming downstairs for a meal, not being used to having decorations, tables set up and people serving them. Quickly however, the food started moving, the controlled chaos of serving dozens of turkeys, fixings and pie and an easy comraderie and appreciation familiar to all Americans who partake in Thanksgiving took over. We all were reminded of our humanity and at our base level, hopefully, we want to help each other enjoy life.

Later, I was able to enjoy the holiday at home with friends and my wife that I love. My holiday tradition I have had since I was a teenager is to listen to Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant". To remember about why war is bad, government can be hyprocritical, and the power of song. I was able to coerce an agreement from Clara that if we had a kid born on Thanksgiving that we would name it Alice, or Woody, or Arlo.


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