More than Meals: A Community Service Reflection

smiling-volunteers-at-soup-kitchen
State Department interns pose for a picture in the SOME dining hall after serving breakfast to nearly 400 people.

“I have only one rule, and it’s very important,” the head cook said as he watched us with a stern look. “You must … smile.” He replaced his poker face with a lively smile and dropped a large pan of scrambled eggs onto the table in front of us.

In the spirit of the #YLAIEmpowers Communities initiative, I and seven other interns took a break from our daily routine working at the State Department to visit So Others Might Eat (SOME), a community-based organization in Washington, DC. SOME offers affordable housing, medical and addiction treatment, counseling, and three meals a day for homeless people and impoverished communities.

Our group chose to work in the dining room assisting in serving breakfast to three rounds of guests, totalling almost 400 guests that morning. We made an assembly line, filling the plates with eggs, grits, and muffins. We poured orange juice and coffee, and we set the tables between rounds.

It would have been easy to get through the morning just scooping grits and making minimal contact with others. We would have gotten credit for our community service, for dedicating a few hours in the morning, for serving hundreds of meals. However, taking the cook’s advice to smile made the experience infinitely more enjoyable and beneficial for us, our coworkers, and the guests.

From our experience with SOME, I learned that serving the community goes far beyond serving meals. There is no way to put a value on the simple interactions we shared with strangers, but in my opinion, they were the most powerful part of the community service experience. And that starts with a smile.

Thank you to SOME and our host, Lynnette, for sharing your wonderful program with us! To find out more about the incredible work that SOME does, visit their website at https://some.org. As a part of #YLAIEmpowers Communities Action Week (July 17–24), I encourage everyone to give back to their community, always with a smile. Share your experience with the YLAI Network, and inspire others to participate in their community!