Monday, October 1, 2007

Food and Friends

Steve, Mickey, Patrick, Regina and Carlos

Referring to my Aunt Jeanne, my Mother always says, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” I’m fortunate, because, apart from my Aunt Jeanne, I have a family that I would also count as my friends. They are people I love to be with.

Our friend Mickey has worked as a volunteer for the organization Food and Friends since 2003 here in the District of Columbia. Taken directly from their website, “The mission of Food & Friends is to foster a community caring for men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-challenging illnesses by preparing and delivering specialized meals and groceries in conjunction with nutrition counseling.” They serve 1300 meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week. Mickey works as a volunteer delivery person several times a week. He gets no reimbursement for gas, wear and tear on his car or the time he spends. Truly, it is a selfless act.

This past weekend we were invited to the Food and Friends Volunteer Appreciation Day, where Mickey was being honored with a special award, the Above and Beyond Volunteer of the Year Award. Of course there was lots of food, music and fun at the event. It didn’t hurt that it was a spectacular day, too.

Mickey belongs to an online “Yahoo Group” called “Freecycle”. “Freecyclers” give away stuff. The stuff they no longer need and just don’t have the heart to throw in the trash, and since one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, why not give it away? It is no less than AMAZING what gets posted to be given away on “Freecycle”. Bicycles, golf clubs, cars, beds, guitars have all been offered. So have things like a broken plastic decorative Kleenex box cover. What’s even more amazing is that almost all of it gets picked up!

So Mickey noticed a microwave being offered and thought, “hey that would be great to bring to Food and Friends for delivery to clients who may not have a working microwave’. As it turns out, people are always giving away their old microwaves and to date, Mickey has picked up 43 microwaves for clients of Food and Friends. He drives to the "Freecycler's" house, delivers their tax deduction receipt and then takes the microwave back the Food and Friends facility. He says he is going to stop at 50 microwaves, but we’ll see.

As a delivery driver Mickey gets to know many of his clients and for some it is their only contact with the outside world. They become family. That started me thinking about the power of food to unite. What could be better than sharing a meal with your friends? When you think back about the good times you’ve had with your family, aren’t they invariably centered around a meal? Thanksgiving, Christmas the family barbecue. Those special times when the most important thing is that you are all together.

Many years ago, my friend Jill’s mom came to visit and we all decided to go out for Chinese food. I had a close group of friends at the time and we had shared many meals together. About halfway through the meal, Jill’s mom said, almost incredulously, that we acted more like a family than mere friends. I realized at that time how we create extended families for ourselves out of our circle of friends.

So, it is true; you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family but I would have to say that sometimes your friends become part of your family. After the event, Mickey, Carlos, Steve and Regina and I went to Franklins in Hyattsville to celebrate Mickey’s big award. We shared appetizers and laughed and talked about nothing in particular, because the important thing was that we were all together, one big (slightly dysfunctional) family.

If you would like to make a donation to Food and Friends, you can do so online at
http://www.foodandfriends.org/
Just $25 will provide enough food for one person for an entire week.

3 comments:

Bella Rossa said...

Oh, sweet! You wrote about my brother!! That was nice.

Patrick said...

Thank you Elizabeth! I'm glad you approve.

Mick said...

Oh, Patrick -- thanks so much for your kind words. It was a great day, wasn't it? And having you and Steve share it with me and Carlos made it even more special! Hugs!