You Too Can Look Cute in a Hairnet: Serving Breakfast at Glide

I finally bit the early morning bullet to volunteer serving breakfast at Glide. I am a little delirious writing this – Your Friendly Neighborhood Atheist does not really DO 6am – but maybe delirious is the appropriate state to fully appreciate the churning controlled chaos that takes place below the sanctuary three times a day, every day. It is truly amazing what they accomplish down there, with limited resources and lines that grow by the hundreds of thousands every year.

The thing that was the most striking in my sleep-deprived state was all the smiling. I wouldn’t have expected so much smiling. There were small ruckuses and malcontents – I saw one guy in line kick back with his heel and catch the guy behind him right in the nads – and lots of folks who were too impaired to really interact with their surroundings, but for the most part it was kind of a party. The older gentlemen took great delight in twinkle-eyed flirting with the cute new girl (let me just say that I don’t look half bad in a lunch lady hairnet) and there were kids running pellmell through the cement corridors. Some looked like they’d slept on the street and some like they’d hit on hard times and just needed a meal or two here and there to pull them through the month. But nearly everyone was smiling, joking, calling out to friends, lending each other a hand. It was like all the mistrust and hypervigilance that characterizes the world above got permission for a quick coffee break, and all that was left were folks.

Friends were teasing me last night when I cut out early to go to bed at 9:30 so I could have a hope of making it there this morning. “Gotta go do the Lawd’s work!” they said, because everyone still thinks its pretty funny that my (formerly) grouchy militant staunch atheist behind gets dragged to church every Sunday morning. It is pretty funny. But I wish it didn’t have to be seen as the Lord’s work, wasn’t generally the purview of religious institutions to do this kind of dirty work for the folks who really need it. I wish it could be seen as human work, the work of humanity, the work humans do for other humans. I wish that we as a society could take responsibility for each other without a commandment from on high to do so. Churches shouldn’t be the only organizations sending people to roll bandages in Haiti, to rebuild homes in New Orleans, to staff AIDS clinics in Africa. And really, it doesn’t even have to be that hard. It shouldn’t be that hard to sweat a little in the service of  humanity. One morning a month at your local soup kitchen, your local food bank. We all know we should do it. I’m just not sure why we don’t.

If you – atheist, theist, believer, non-believer, religious, spiritual or undecided – would like to join the party in the world below the sanctuary at Glide, click here and sign up. You don’t have to be a member, but you’ll probably want to be after you hang out for a little while.

I’m going to crawl into the miracle of luck and privilege that is my bed and take a long Sunday afternoon nap. I am so very blessed, though that word has a slightly different meaning to me than it would to someone who believes in God. You don’t have to believe in God to be deeply grateful for things like roofs and beds and food and health care. You just have to spend some time with folks who don’t have them.

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