April 9, 2022, 12:00 AM

Day 9 -- We do what we can do

Today was not one of those perfect volunteer days where you know you can save the world. Today the world seemed more powerful than the work at times, and that feeling started as soon as we left our Airbnb. We were leaving for a closer hotel that is only 20 minutes away from the Kitchen, so we had all our stuff with us. We decided to check out a nearby church that we had been meaning to see, and I overshot the driveway and pulled off on the side of the road.

When I tried to back up, the car angled too far and rolled down an embankment, sharply tilted to the right, but no damage to the car, or passengers—thank God! We were angled sharply enough that Cheryl could not get out the passenger side door and had to climb up and out of the driver side door. Bad.

I knew we were going to need a tow truck to get us out of there, and worried immediately about how to contact someone. Was there a Polish version of AAA? Even before I had gotten out of the car, which was so tilted that I needed help getting the door open, a car stopped next to us on the road and two men hopped out. A moment later, another stopped. They helped us out of the car and and said in limited English “We are going to push the car” My immediate thought was, “You’re crazy!”

But then, like some kind of special message had gone out to all the drivers on that road, cars began to drive up and pull over, drivers running towards us. It was amazing. And then we all positioned ourselves around the car with someone in the driver’s seat putting it into reverse, and I was still thinking “No way is this going to work!” The driver accelerated the car, and I was stunned to see the car moving backwards up the hill with all of us pushing. Within a minute or so, the car was back on the road, ready to go, none the worse for wear.

In the middle of a war that rages just over the border, with possible derision of foreigners, especially, I must tell you, do-gooder Americans (me, for example) who show up with good hearts and limited understanding of local culture and practice and who do not understand even the most basic Polish, it is easy to think that people here might not be so kind or helpful. What we have found is that people have gone far out of their way to help, way beyond what I would ever expect to experience.

In this case, a few caring and active people took time and energy to get us out of a bad situation. I know that the first cars showed up out of fear that perhaps something worse had happened, rather than a simple roll down an embankment. They invested a part of their day, they got involved, they stayed to help, they took a chance. That wanted to help. And with almost nothing in common but our shared humanity, they did just that, to our unspeakable relief. It was scary to need such immediate help in a foreign country, and so grace-full when we received the help we needed.

That was, unfortunately, not the end of our mishaps on this day. We had a border patrol stop on our way into the Kitchen, after the car event and we were that required us to produce our documents at a remote spot. I always keep my passport in my sports bra (I know—too much information, but that passport is the most important thing I have) with $100, and as I tried to tastefully remove the passport, the money went flying all over the car, perhaps looking like a potential bribe, which I tried to correct with “Not for you! Mine!” since they did not speak any English. Everything ended up fine, but we are also temporarily without a rental car for other reasons, which is creating challenges. Our new place to stay is still 20 minutes outside the city. We can get a ride into work for our final day at the Kitchen, but how will we get back to Warsaw, a 5 hour car trip? God will see us through, I am sure of it. Hasn’t God done exactly that, over and over?

Here’s what I took away from today— that what we are doing at World Central Kitchen is the product of lots of people suddenly gathering to tackle a much larger problem in the only way that we can help. I can make an amazing ham sandwich for 8 to 10 hours a day. I can work on an assembly line wrapping bread pudding squares that are dense with butter, eggs and cream. In this Kitchen, we are getting a lot of people to do an impossible task—to feed refugees— and we are doing it one volunteer at a time. And I can now list the name of those I know who helped us make 1500 sandwiches an hour today—Chef Noah, Krysten, Michael, Marsha, Snow, Matt, Kenny...each person received a unique and distinct call to serve. And here we are. We know, of course, that we can always pray. Always and everywhere.

I have received some pushback from people, and we will be criticized for what we are doing here as well. So be it. We have served and learned, we have blessed others and been a blessing in small ways that add up, worked in a Kitchen as a new community that create good in the world. So when I come back, please don’t argue with me about whether it was a good idea to go, or whether my motives had more to do with me than the refugees. Do NOT tell us we are amazing. We aren’t. We are broken and sad about something that feels out of control and this was one way to help. ONE way. There are many other things to help that will suit you and others better. This was our way to do something that changes us as well as helps others.

I am also not a political expert on this situation and I have purposely stayed out of conversations that remind me of my college days—-people who don’t know a lot, but who have very strong opinions. So don’t expect me to come back armed with all new and fierce political convictions. I won’t. I am blessed to be someone who knows the same thing she knew in the US, and a quote by Ghandi reminds me of this truth, and it haunts me both here in Poland and in the US as St. John’s continues to do the good work of feeding people in our own community: “There are some people so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” I know that hungry people need to be fed, wherever they live in this world, and the mission I am on today only reinforces the power of that knowledge.

"If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday," Isaiah 58: 10

(I know today is already Palm Sunday— gratitude to Deacon Paul Guillemette and the entire team at St.John’s and Christ Church, Duanesburg for taking on the celebration of a day that begins our Holy Week, and our real time walk with Jesus toward the cross. It is no accident that God called Cheryl and I to serve at this time, but it is still very hard to be away from all of you, and VERY hard not to be marking this day with worship.)

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,