When you're volunteering, there's this moment where you get into the groove into what you're doing, whether it's playing games with senior citizens who have dementia, or cleaning a beach, or teaching a class. There's that beautiful moment when you realize that despite your tiny, small existance in this world, you have made a dent. A small dent, to be sure, but a dent none-the-less. And your actions will put a smile on someone's face.
I like to think about these things when I help out. The unnamed faces, the people who might come along in the future and smile because of something I've done.
In this case, as I unpacked boxes and boxes of donated food, I was thinking of where that food came from. Who donated it. Were they just cleaning out their pantries? Trying to claim a tax exemption? Or did they preemptively buy these things and donate them because they wanted to, because they knew it made a difference?
Some boxes were filled with things that were clearly corporate donated. A box of Italian wine and pasta and fruitcakes, imported from Italy. Others seemed to be a donation of a product gone to waste, like the cans and cans and cans of vegetable juice, seemingly never-ending. A bag of rice and canned soup not set to expire for at least another two years, probably donated by another family.
But no matter the motive or the contents of the box, there was no denying that this was good. I packed a box filled to the brim with carrots and potatoes and cookies and juices, rice and pasta and instant ramen. Food traveled down the assembly line, finding places in other, less-filled boxes, and then we taped it all up and stuck the label to the box.
I tried to imagine the families' faces when they would open that box. Would they be happy? Relieved, because they had food to feed themselve and their children for another day, at least? Hunger never can be silenced. And when the number of rice thrown away is enough to feed all those under the poverty line in Japan, it's a blessing that an organization like Second Harvest Japan exists.
I signed my name on the wall after two short hours.
A wall that was marked by Walmart and Wells Fargo and other names as well, seemingly small and meaningless separately but when I stepped back and looked, really looked at the wall, these names stared back.
The sheer volume of people who have volunteered blew me away. These were people across the world, here in Japan, who willingly gave up time to help feed others. I'm glad all these names stand, as a testament to the kindness of strangers.