“Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good”
The Sound of Music
I was a little nervous when I walked into the Manna facility today. It has been over six months since I last volunteered at the warehouse. What kind of changes would I see? What about the people that I used to work with? Would they still be there? Was I going to be taken completely by surprise?
All my worries vanished the moment I walked in the door. I was totally floored by the way I was greeted by both the staff and my fellow volunteers. There was so much warmth in the greetings, and so much concern about my health and the state of my recovery from the accident. There was a palpable sense of concern about my well-being. And I got this kind of a response from almost all the people I used to interact with regularly in the warehouse in the past, even people that I did not expect to remember me. I was touched.
The Tuesday team of volunteers is still alive and well at Manna, and I was glad to see the volunteers that I had worked with regularly in the past on my first day back. This is perhaps the right moment for me to show a picture that was taken at the warehouse at the end of 2015.On the right side of of the picture, standing up, is Jamal, the warehouse manager then and now. (He was the one who had asked for the particular picture to be taken.) When I arrived, he came out to the front of the warehouse to say hello. (What you are seeing on the racks behind us are the open packages of perishable food that are to be given to customers in the afternoon. This open box will be accompanied by a closed box of non-perishable food, and frozen meat, bread, and other items that might be available at that time from the donations that keep Manna going.)
Not all of the people in the picture above continue to work on the distribution side of things on Tuesdays, but, as I found out today, there still is an effective core of volunteers that come in on that day of the week to rock the joint! I feel I have a connection with these folks that is unique in some ways. And the connection showed in the way I was greeted this morning.
Mike, on the left hand side of the picture, is a grandfather in his seventies, who, after a successful career running a company, comes in to help regularly. He is also responsible for fixing things in the warehouse and building whatever is needed. In this regard he is willing to work on any problem that comes his way. He and I assembled a bunch of mobile racks (similar of the ones you see in the picture) a few months ago.
Guliz, next to Mike, used to work for the US. State Dept, Turkish Culture & Language Section in DC for many years, and seems to spend a lot of her time outside of Manna speaking up about different social causes, not the least of which is the effect of the drift towards autocratic governance in her country of origin. She is a “live wire” when it comes to getting things done.
The tall guy next to me (towards the center of the picture, in the back wearing black) is Steve. He retired from a government job and he volunteers two days a week at Manna. He started about the same time I did. He is the steady guy who knows what needs to be done at all times, and also jumps in to help with anything and everything where needed.
It would be fair to say that the volunteers I have noted from the picture above help make it happen in the distribution system on Tuesdays with the assistance of the other volunteers who are there on a more temporary basis. I am happy to be a part of this core group that gets it done.
There is one other person in the picture whom I have not seen for a long time, and who we all miss at Manna. Doug, standing in the back between Mike and Steve, is also a hardworking and versatile worker. I used to enjoy hearing his jokes and stories, especially those experiences from his time in the Vietnam War as a mechanic working on aircraft in the field. We have not seen him recently. I hope he is keeping well.
And then there is Miss Blanche, a Manna employee who is not in the picture, who works with the distribution volunteers providing direction. In her seventies (I believe!), she tries very hard to keep things in order while a kind of organized chaos reigns around her.
The remarkable thing is that we are all people with widely varied backgrounds who have come together to do a single thing, and that we do this as a team effectively.
The greeting I got from Jamal, Mike, Guliz, Steve, and Miss Blanche was particularly touching today. I am back in a place that I want to be in, doing things that make me feel good about myself. Being back at Manna is probably good for my mental state and sense of balance, and hopefully it helps in getting me back into better physical shape also.
I tried to take it easy in the warehouse today, and it took an extra effort on my part to back off from doing the things that I usually tend to do there. But I was careful, and the folks around me were also looking out for me. I also worked for a shorter duration of time than usual, and I came out of the experience not feeling as tired as I usually do. I feel fine, and I took forward to stepping it up with time.