There is no better way to say it — I have loved my time serving in the kitchens at The Haven. The work is hard and physically demanding, and at times my patience has definitely been tested. The joy of preparing, serving, and sharing food with others, however, has made me happier than I’ve felt in a good while. I think this joy stems in large part from the opportunity to work and serve with so many different kinds of people, all in one place. I have worked with doctors, lawyers, med students, nurses, mennonite women, bakers, former chefs, contractors, artists, housewives, educators, reverends, recent college graduates, and recently married couples. Where else in Charlottesville can you find such a cornucopia of community representation? It’s just amazing to me the variety of staff, guests, and volunteers who come together over a plate of food, and the opportunity to get to know such a diversity of individuals from across Charlottesville has been an amazing gift.
Part of what I find so fascinating about this phenomenon is that each individual forfeits a part of their identity before serving in the kitchen. Of course, these people don’t completely abandon their roles and identities as doctors, Mennonites, bakers, etc, – they just don’t let their outside roles and identities bar them from fully communing. I think our personal identities necessarily take on a sort of limbo-state whilst serving, and I think it has something to do with humility.
I thought it was rad, for example, when a buff, male surgeon asked me how to cut a tomato. I knew someone else in his position would never ask for help with something so simple, being so accomplished and highly educated. This man, however, was able to pocket his pride and reach out for my assistance. He left his pride at the door in order to enter into community for the benefit of others, and I respected his humility.
I’ve started to read the New Testament as part of my internship, and, as a newcomer, I was struck by the following verses: “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:10-12). This humility is present in everyone who comes to serve at The Haven, and it’s this humility which I think helps us all to work with one another. No one is too educated, too good, or too accomplished for service, and it’s a pity for those out there who believe themselves to be above service, because they’re really missing out on a joy and a gift.