Once upon a time, In my youth and ignorance I was in Boston and it was Thanksgiving time. I returned home to New York expecting the usual holiday parties and dinners and upon arriving home was informed by my parents that this Thanksgiving the family would be volunteering at the community center, serving dinner to those that walked in the door seeking a nice meal. I was incensed. How dare they do that to me? I did not come home expecting to be pampered only to be told I would be put to work as a common staff member. I protested. This had never happened before and I wondered how this could have come about. It seems kind people approached my parents about this scenario and somehow they agreed. My youthful vanity prevailed and I would not seem like the spoiled child I was and begrudgingly arrived at community center with bad attitude. Then the people began to arrive. Poor, badly groomed, rural people with slumped shoulders, heads down, ashamed to be there in need, looking as well as they could possibly manage for such a speacial day. But they were there. They were hungry and poor. I am ashamed of my initial reaction to seeing them. What in the hell could I possibly be doing there? Realizing there was no getting out of it, I looked around to see what I could do to contribute. It was very unorganized and the attendees had no idea what to do so I went to one family and kindly asked if they would like to have a great Thanksgiving dinner. They replied in the affirmative. So I took them to where the food was and told them what everything was and gave them plates and silverware (the community center had actual china and stainless flatware then). With plates and silverware in hand I asked what they liked or did not and loaded up their plates accordingly and got them back to their table and made sure they had napkins and salt and pepper and made sure they let me know if they needed anything. they seemed surprised but believed me and tentatively asked about coffee with cream and sugar. I produced it at once and told them where they could get more. They were kids in a candy store. More beligured people arrived not knowing what the procedure was and I greeted them and explained where everything was and how the thing worked. It was oddly satisying to be able to be of help in such a simple way. I wanted them to feel comfortable and welcome and they were happy to know and receive such hospitality. After they had chowed down and were reticent to ask for seconds, I let them know they could have as many seconds as they liked and helped them to the food again and let them know that they didn't need to ask for my help or anyone's help. They were free to help themselves. This seemed to be a new concept to them but with encouragement, they did have seconds and coffee with cream and sugar and even desert. Warm pie a'la mode. When I checked on the people at their tables, I leaned over and put my hand on their shoulders and smiled and asked what I could do for them. It was wonderful to listen to their answers like "where are the bathrooms?, How much do we have to pay? Do we have to go to some church for this?". I happily directed them to the restrooms and told them no and no. It amazed me that as selfish and spoiled as I was how great it felt to be helpful to people who were not used to being helped. When the eating had concluded and the tables were full of empty, dirty dishes I was appalled that there were not bus boys to clear the mess and the people felt uncomfortable having the evidence of their indulgence in front of them and so I began to be a bus boy on something and gently cleared their tables for them so they could relax and enjoy the piano music being played. Having cleared the tables, I was further shocked that there was not an army of dishwashers doing the dishes and so I figured out how to fill up big, giant stainless steel sinks and began to wash the dishes. Other people were busy doing more important things like talking to the people who came in the door, spending time with them, listening to them, making them feel welcome. But that was the first time I felt like I was able to be of use and make people feel welcome and unashamed for the fact that they were having a crap time just at the moment and that it would get better and that they had nothing better to do than relax and enjoy. I will never forget that and I hope to know the joy of being able to be of service to those in need throughout my life even though from time to time I revert to my pre-community center attitude (it does happen and I hate it). SO - once upon a time, a poor boy was tought humility by those who were truly humble.