I Came for the Food, but Left With Friends
Today’s post comes from the Ulu Pono Division Head, Teka Gabaldon! She has been a long time faithful member of our Outreach Department. Read on to hear Teka’s observations about our weekly food distribution in Kalihi.
As I’ve been helping with Feeding The Hungry (FTH) over the past three years, I’ve observed and gotten to know (some of) the hundreds of aunties and uncles that attend each week. I watch them as they get off the bus, run to the corner and line up waiting to be checked in week after week. The sight is similar each time: the bright orange fencing, ready to be filled with men and women – young and old. I’ve gotten to know their personalities, choice of wagon, number of busses they take to get there each week, their home countries, preferred spots to sit and which ones I can get to smile the quickest as I greet them at registration. But lately, something I’ve noticed while I take my place at the start of the line, is the simple, yet beautiful reality of friendship.
Here are (give or take) five hundred people, brought together by their need for food, who sit for hours beside each other each week, in the same spots, sharing food and catching up with the friends they’ve been making for years. Feeding The Hungry just celebrated it’s 20 year anniversary a few months ago, and some faithful attendees have been coming since the very beginning. I don’t mean to imply that the need to show up to a Feeding Program is a luxury by any means, but I do believe that it’s not just the food that keeps them coming back.
Quite a few of them live in close proximity to each other, but I have to wonder if their normal everyday commutes and lives would have brought them together otherwise. And would they have lived their whole lives without these now good friends if their realities didn’t force them to come our way? I rejoice though, because despite their circumstances and different needs, they’ve found each other and a community that loves them well.
The reality of spending most of your Thursdays taking two or more busses to and from Kalihi, lugging a heavy wagon of groceries, waiting in a parking lot for five hours with hundreds of other people, isn’t most people’s mid-week dream date, but the stark reality is made lighter knowing that your friends are going to be showing up there too. There’s comfort in knowing that you’ll have plenty to catch up on, a friend to laugh with, and people who are living your reality alongside you – and maybe they’ll even bring homemade food to share.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes there are disagreements and misunderstandings among those who attend FTH, but the biggest thing I’ve noticed is laughter, conversation and the promise of friendships being made deeper and friends joining in the waiting – when things are hard and the journey is tough…there’s something about community that makes the waiting bearable. It reminds me that community is essential and friends are needed, whether you have little or much. So whether you’re coming to give or receive, I believe the friendships made under the bridge at FTH are some that will not easily be lost. Everyone has something to gain when they come on Thursdays, whether volunteers or attendees, you can be sure that friendships will continue to be made over the next 20 years, even in the most unlikely places.