Friday Photo: Some Soup and a Story

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

For a moment on Wednesday night, I was worried.  20 freshmen and sophomores, gas stoves, sharp knives and the need to prepare and serve dinner for 40+ people in less than an hour?  I questioned my choices.

As my students trickled into the shelter that night I quickly jumped into teacher mode and soon had the industrial sized kitchen humming with activity.  Onions were chopped, meat was browning, cornbread was mixing up and tables were being set. 

Little by little, my nervousness was replaced by problem solving.  No measuring cup? No problem – use an app to convert cups to tablespoons.  No, I don’t know how to use an industrial sized coffee maker – find someone to help you. And they did.

After a while, any passerby might have thought these kids were running the kitchen of the best restaurant in town.  They were even wiping up after themselves!  As they cooked they bonded with each other, and eased their own jitters about meeting the strangers waiting outside the door.

The real lesson came after the food was prepared and the homeless guests lined up to be served.  With eagerness and compassion, these children served men and women who were actually not so different from themselves. Slowly they ventured towards the dinner tables

Sitting side by side and sharing a meal broke down the scariness.  Stories began to move back and forth, child and adult bonding over simple food and a common desire to get to know each other’s story.  I stood back and watched the transformation, and beamed with pride at the acts of compassionate justice occurring before my eyes.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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  1. Kudos. A life-altering experience for all I am sure. I have financially supported a local shelter but have not yet physically been there to help. Guess I was looking for the right time and the right level of maturity for my kids. This post has inspired me to step it up a notch. Thanks!

    1. Hi Astra, financial support is one type of charity. The special part comes when you build the relationships with those you are helping-and I think almost any age can start. We had a three year old with us for awhile!

  2. Hi Huda, thanks for visiting mamawolfe.
    Elisabeth, thank you. They gave me a gift right back.
    Dee,you’re welcome. I was proud to be able to help them discover this powerful part of themselves.
    Hi Rachel, thanks for following! I think we all changed that night!

  3. Dear Jennifer,
    This is an inspiring post and I applaud the students for venturing out of their “comfort zone.” The words you used–“acts of compassionate justice”–so well summed up what they were doing. It is only just that we care for our fellow human being. It is compassion that leads us to do so. They and you touched lives and were touched. This is the receiving and the giving that are the two sides of compassionate justice. Thank you for sharing this story with us.


  4. Hi Kim, Thank you. If what you say is true, I will be a happy woman.
    Susan, I really think the kids were changed after their experience. They grew up a little bit, and got to know themselves better. What more could I ask for?
    Michael Ann, you’re so sweet. It was really fun-maybe you’ll do it with me next time?

  5. This put a huge lump in my throat. Got me all choked up. What a life-changing experience for your students. Major kudos to you for thinking to do this with them. WOW.

  6. Every one of those students went home a different person that night. Every adult learned that this generation were not so hopeless after all. Super, super beyond-the-pale of teachers.

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