It was an exciting day today, in that I met some of the student leaders that I will be working with this year. I mean, what better way to kick off the year, than to dive into some community service work?
The student leaders organized an opportunity for our group to serve at a local soup kitchen. Talk about bringin’ it back! Last time I served at a soup kitchen was in high school – at least, that’s the most that I can recall! I remember serving at the Catholic Worker in Orange County a few times, and I remember baking brownies for the people on Thanksgiving. It was part of our youth ministry program at church, and other times, I just decided to go, just…because?
It indeed seemed like a new experience for me serving at a soup kitchen, in that, I felt like I had a new pair of lenses. Between my days of recording community service hours in high school and now, many years later, my experiences with poverty, homelessness, hunger, and social justice have made vivid imprints in my mind.
This afternoon, I was brought back to discussing “A Place at the Table” with our CRS Ambassadors, while discussing food hunger in America. I was brought back to the many false stereotypes that I heard growing up, that poverty and homelessness affect only a certain ethnic group (and saw yet again, firsthand, that this is not the case). I was brought back to remembering the importance of not forgetting people in the margins.
Most of the people were gathered in the center of the room. They seemed to get the most attention, and I happily poured soda into their styrofoam cups. Looking around, I saw people were beginning to fill the outside tables, and I thought to myself, “don’t forget the people in the margins!” What a metaphor for life.
And unexpectedly, I was brought back to the Philippines.
Walking around with a cannister of soda in my hand ready to pour, I walked over to this Filipina woman who called me over. She said, “Pinay?” (colloquial term for a Filipina). Happy to have made contact with another Filipina, I said, “Opo!” (“yes” in Tagalog). She then said, “That’s all I know! I’m from Ilocos Norte. I’m Ilokano.” I was brought back to Baguio, distinct memories, and my Ilokano roots.
A few moments later, I poured some soda into another man’s cup. He said, “Hey! Are you a native Filipina?” I thought to myself, “what is going on here?” Haha, I told him no, but my parents are from the PI. I then asked him if he was Filipino and he said, “No. I’m Mexican.” Ok…so either there was a community lesson on Filipinos and the Philippines, or perhaps it was not common for them to see Filipinas serve at the soup kitchen?
As the day winded down, soda cannister in hand, this young adult – probably around my age said, “Hey! Are you Filipina?” At this point, I was like, what in the world? I wasn’t wearing anything distinctly Filipino to prompt this seemingly popular question! I said, “Yeah. are you?” He said, “Nope – but I can just tell from your face and complexion.”
I then thought to myself, that’s pretty awesome! Normally, I refer to myself as a Filipina-American (Fil-Am), but keepin’ it simple, Filipina will do too. But dang. Three times the same question!
Today I was happy to be out there, directly serving the people who came for food, care, and shelter, and I was grateful for the blessed journey that has led me up to this point. Nothing is wasted.
How has your journey led you to where you are now? I would love to hear about it!