Charlotte A. Stout

If you missed an ealier post, this page has my previous March 2017 Reflection postings.
If you want to read some earlier Reflections, click on the links below for the month you are interested in:

February 2017January 2017

March 24th: Is This Free?

I have been working at the Women and Children’s Free Restaurant (WCFR) in our community for the last year. This week’s shift work was particularly significant because of some people I met for the first time.

A young lady, whom I will call Annie was seated at one of my tables. When I approached the table, it was immediately clear that this young lady had not showered in a very long time. Surrounding her were bags containing her belongings. I would guess her age to be mid-twenties. I brought water to the table and asked what she would like to drink. I showed Annie the menu and asked her to peruse it while I attended to her drink order. When I returned, she leaned in to me and asked very softly, “Is all this free?” I confirmed that, “yes, everything here is free.”

Annie’s eyes got wide and filled with moisture. “Can I have everything,” she asked sheepishly.

“Yes, you can Annie.”

“I haven’t eaten in two days. I’m so glad I was walking by here and found you,” Annie said.

Annie ate well and left with a full stomach.

At another table was a mom with two little boys. She too was new to the restaurant. When I arrived at the table to greet the young family and take their drink order mom turned her back to her little boys, motioned for me to bend down so she could whisper something to me. She asked in very hushed tones, “how much does this cost. I don’t have much money but my children really need to eat.”

I told her that everything is free. Armed with that information I could visibly see her whole face and body relax. She turned around to her two boys and said, “let’s read the menu together and decide what we want to eat tonight.”

The boys clapped their hands, jumped off their chairs and gathered around their mom to listen to her explain what the food options were. I brought their drinks and they ordered their starters with the boys doing an exceptional job, completing their order with a hearty “thank you very much.” The “thank you’s” kept coming each time I brought water, picked up an empty plate, served food and thanked them for coming in to spend some time with us. After this adorable family left I grabbed a tray to start clearing their table. When I arrived at the table I noticed two $1 bills with a little note saying, “Thank you.” This mom had no money but she left what she could afford. I wish I had noticed her placing the money on the table because I would have kindly declined the donation. I remember her and her adorable little boys very well and hope I can return the funds to her another day.

This is what WCFR is all about. We provide a full meal service in a very nice restaurant setting for women and children in need free of charge. The two examples above are typical of our clientele. It makes me wonder what will happen to programs such as these if the GOP budget is passed.

We can only hope that we, the public, are vocal enough and legislators listen. Because, contrary to what Mick Mulvaney believes – that there is no proof that food and full bellies help children learn better – he is mistaken. Children who have full tummies have more clarity in their thought, retain information better and are happier. Aren’t we all!

March 17th: Volunteers Have Heart

I have been volunteering for years doing everything from sitting with hospice patients, dog walking, fostering dogs, pet therapy escort, prep cook, server and food bank worker to name some. I choose what I want to do and where based on the real needs in the community and what interests me. Most of my friends who volunteer approach it the same way. Those of us who volunteer because we believe in the organization’s mission, the service, or the people take our responsibility seriously. If we sign up for a shift the volunteer coordinator can be assured, we will show up.

I cannot make the same statement about all volunteers. Some people may be volunteering for the wrong reason. Maybe they feel guilty sitting at home or don’t feel they are utilizing their time wisely. Perhaps volunteering in the community is a mandate from their employer to comply with the company’s mission statement. Who knows why they are volunteering but their commitment to showing up, for whatever reason, is not a priority in their life. To those people, I would like to suggest that they take time to find the right place to volunteer before making a commitment. Volunteer Coordinators and your volunteer colleagues depend on you showing up when you say you will. Not doing so creates a serious inconvenience to others including the population the organization serves and demonstrates a lack of caring and sensitivity.

Some may say – yes, but those who “always” show up just have more time available and not as many things to think about in their life. To this I say, baloney. Today every person is crazy busy but those who are committed to volunteering make the time by making this activity part of their regular schedule because their heart is in the work.

I commend all the people who volunteer every day. There are so many services that would not be provided without volunteers. For example, feeding the homeless or hungry, reading to children in the hospital, running errands for the housebound, walking shelter animals, fostering dogs or cats until they are adopted, packaging meals for school children who would otherwise go hungry, answering suicide hotlines, staffing emergency shelters, holding and rocking drug addicted babies in the hospital, sewing custom pillow cases for hospitalized children, and the list could go on for pages. Find what ignites a spark in your heart before making a long-term commitment to volunteering. Once that commitment is made though, please know so many people are relying on you to show up. Thank you in advance for all you do!

March 10th: Give No One Cause to Fear You

I was reading Dr. Richard Hanson’s recent posting with the above title and had to share his insights and thoughts. In this day, it is especially difficult to not become “fearful” with what is being said and done in our current administration. So, let’s heed the words and thoughts of Dr. Hanson as we navigate these stressful times.

“Think of the little bits of irritation, caustic tone, edginess, superiority, pushiness, nagging, argumentativeness, eye rolls, sighs, rapid fire talk, snarkiness, demands, high-handedness, righteousness, sharp questions, or put downs that can leak out of a person - and how these can affect others. Consider how few of these are necessary, if any at all - and the mounting costs of the fears we needlessly engender in others.

Think of the benefits to you and others of them feeling safer, calmer, and more at peace around you. “
Richard Hanson, Ph.D.

Reading the above excerpt is particularly apropos considering the early morning tweet rants of the current occupant of the White House. Those tweet rants with their caustic, accusatory, inflammatory, self-righteous tones are meant to put fear in our hearts and minds. They are meant to distract us, to redirect our attention away from an administration that is fraught with missteps, misdeeds, potential illegal dealings and incompetence.

So, what can you do. Assert yourself for the things that matter to you. If you are sticking up for yourself and getting your needs met, you won't be as likely to get reactive with others and the early morning tweets won’t stress you out as much.

Be trustworthy yourself, so that others do not fear that you will let them down. If you say you will do something, demonstrate your trustworthiness through your actions.

Be at peace. Know that you have done what you can to help prevent or reduce fears in others. The benefit to you is your own sense of calm and a feeling of hope that this too shall pass, you have done your best and you can make a difference.

March 3rd: Laughter dispels Crankiness

Do you ever wake up feeling cranky? While I am prone to awaken in a good mood I do have days when I can be cantankerous. This is when I am thankful for a partner who has a sense of humor who makes me laugh. A recent event comes to mind that demonstrates how important it is to be around people who can help you laugh.

I found a trinket at a street fair and knew it would be perfect for a friend who appreciates such items. I went to mail it to her at the local UPS store. Mind you, my visit to the UPS store was the day after returning from a three-day drive from Palm Springs, CA to Washington. We had been in Palm Springs for a month. I was tired, a bit overwhelmed by all the mail I needed to go through, cookies to bake, emails to catch up on, laundry to do – well, you get the picture.

I was sure I had sent a package to this friend previously from this local UPS store so, I didn’t bother taking the address with me. I gave the local UPS attendant my phone number so she could access my account. She looked for the recipient of my little gift but did not find any indication I had shipped to my friend from this location before.

I knew without a doubt that I could rattle off my friends’ address. I started to give the attendant the delivery information and she smiled up at me, “um, that’s your address,” she informed me. I was a bit mortified but hey, I was tired!

I then called my husband to get the correct mailing address for my friend. Once I had it and conveyed it to the attendant who proceeded to create the mailing label, I told my husband that I had given the attendant our address causing great confusion, and, possibly, concern about me on the part of the attendant.

My husband’s response was to laugh and say, “I’m going to make up a little sign that says My name is …. And I live at….” I know this may sound condescending and it is no joke to someone who has memory issues. But, at that specific moment when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and was attempting to tick the “to-do’s” off my list quickly and efficiently, it threw me into fits of laughter, as it did my husband on the other end of the phone. I was doubled over laughing and it felt so good. The young lady behind the counter could not help but laugh even though she had no idea what had prompted this hilarious response from me. Laughter, when it is genuine and from the gut, is catchy and can dispel crankiness not only in one’s self but help put a smile on the face of those around you.

Surround yourself with people who make you smile and can tempt that belly laugh out of you when you really need it. :-)