Feeding the Soul

A teen stretches his spiritual horizons during summer vacation.

Posted in , Jun 26, 2018

Soup kitchen volunteer

“I’m meeting up with Mehrab after I’m done at the soup kitchen tomorrow, and we’re going to the Met,” my 14-year old informed me. Last week Stephen requested a soccer-related purchase—he is a huge international football fan—and I said yes, with the caveat that he’d have to earn it. Since there was nothing that needed to be done around the house, I proposed that he sign up for two shifts at the huge soup kitchen in midtown Manhattan. It’s an experience I strongly recommend to anyone visiting the city. Try serving at Holy Apostles.

I’d done soup kitchen shifts with my son when he was younger. It was a good, manageable exposure to the larger world of New York. Some of the people who come are bike messengers who are able to pay rent only because they get a free meal each weekday. Others are homeless. There are noisy folks and nervous folks and people coming straight from the hospital, but the soup kitchen is run efficiently, and rules are gently enforced.

Sometimes all you do is cut up roast turkeys. Other times you scoop rice onto plates or wipe down tables for two intense hours. Once Stephen handed out vouchers for haircuts and toiletries, so that people could maintain a sense of dignity and go to job interviews. “It was amazing how many people needed socks!” he reported, unaware until then that underclothes wear out faster than jeans. 

So tomorrow my son will be spending his summer vacation serving at the soup kitchen in the morning and meeting up with a friend to see art at the Metropolitan Museum in the afternoon. To me, that’s what New York City is about: exposure to culture on every level. If you are ever in town, I urge you to see the whole of it. 

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