Anne Horton Writing Award
Honorable Mention Narration/Description
My arms were sore from carrying the twenty pounds of ground beef into the kitchen in the basement of thechurch. It was the Saturday beforeChristmas, and my best friend had persuaded me that this was the best way to spend one of the last shopping days left. I was a bit skeptical if cooking spaghetti for hundreds of people would be so wonderful, but I had decided to give it a chance because spending time with my best friend would be nice, and cooking and serving food couldn't be that big of adeal because it happens every day in my ownhouse.
The small room began to fill with the heart-warming smells of cooking meat and freshly chopped onions. Conversations of Christmas plans and gifts accompanied the hard work as everyone did their part in cooking the meal. On the countertops were trays filled with cookies, crock-pots filled with simmering sauce, boxes of noodles, and long loaves of crispy French bread. As the finishing touches were put on the meal, we began to pack everything together. We carried the heavy pans, boxes, and pots up the fifteen steps to the parking lot, where open car trunks awaited. Three car and van trunks were filled by the time we had finished. I wonderedhow many empty stomachs it would take to consume all of this food.
We stood outside in the crisp winter air as our group leader gave us directions to the Rockford Rescue Mission. He advised us that once we arrived, all of ourvaluables should be hidden somewhere or taken in with us. I started to wonder what sort of neighborhood we would be visiting. My bad thoughts were confirmed as he continued to warn us. "Once you girls are readyto leave tonight," he said, "let me know, and I will walk you out to your car" Though his warnings frightened me a bit, I was not discouraged.
During the car ride there, I began to think of all of the things I was so lucky to have. Every night I come home to a warm house, with a nice meal on the table. I am hardly ever sick, and when I am my parents give me the care 1 need. I do not have to worry too much about paying bills. I am in school and getting a good education. My friends and family are always there for me and are very supportive of everything I do. I thought of the Christmas soon approaching and the gifts my family would be exchanging and the wonderful food we would gain those extra pounds with. When the thoughts of my life had finished going through my head I wondered if every one's life is as wonderful as mine, and realized that there are lots of people that have none of these privileges.
Once we arrived at the Rescue Mission, we unloaded the food into the large industrial kitchen located in the back of the building. We were introduced to a woman in the kitchen who had a stem, serious face. Her kind heart did not match her outer appearance. She welcomed and thanked us and then began to describe the way we would be distributing the meals. Orders such as "Give small, even portions" and "Do not allow for any special requests" stuck out in my mind. I wondered why there must be so many rules attached to doing good deeds.
The dining room began to fill with people for the meal preceding church service. Some of the people entered the room with smiles stretched across their faces and others with frowns. There were people of all different ages there, but what stood out most to me were the young children that entered the room clinging to their parents. Their frightened looks were different than the innocent smiles I am accustomed to seeing among young children. The similarity between all the people was evident when I noticed them all having the same hungry look about them. When most of the seats became occupied I overheard the discussions of this year's illnesses, tight Christmas budgets, and another year without gifts. I began to think about the people in their own houses on Christmas morning. An image came to my mind of many young children and a single parent huddled around a single space heater They would not be opening presents and enjoying a large breakfast as many families do on Christmas morning. These images made me realize that the people in this dining room are not the only ones that struggle every day with empty stomachs and keeping warm.
The church service consisted of Bible readings and a sermon focused on believing in yourself The pastor talked about taking one day at a time and working hard to accomplish your goals Everyone seemed to be listening attentively as the pastor talked about the upcoming Christmas season. At times some perked up with joy, and at other times people held their heads in their folded hands.
When the short service came to an end, everyone rushed into line. Five of us stood filling trays full of hearty food. First women and children came through, and then the men followed. All of them looked pleased to have a little something to fill their stomachs. A hundred or so people had already gone through the line as I handed a man his tray of food. I heard him clear his throat before he muttered something in my direction. "Thank you," he said, "and may God bless you." He looked up at me, and a gentle smile came across his face. I felt a sort of awakening as the smile transferred from his face to my own.