14 September 2009

a place for everything (and everyone)

i may have mentioned that cosmo likes to put things where they belong. i wouldn't say he is obsessive about it (yet) but he seems to find great satisfaction in knowing where an item lives, and returning it to its home. i like that too. every time i move into a new place (which i have done a LOT of in my 40+ years) i have a renewed fantasy of finally having a place for everything. i know i could manage all the stuff i drag around, if i could just get it organized. and, i must say, over the years, and moves, i have made great strides. my art supplies, for instance, are compartmentalized. i have a bin labeled "glue and glue guns" one called "small paints and ink" a bin dedicated to "tape," i have a drawer with only small boxes, to be decorated, or otherwise crafted into something wonderful. so, it is not all fantasy.

recently, i have found an activity for cosmo and i that puts these "everything in its place" skills to use. we have been going to mother hubbard's cupboard one afternoon each week, to help stock the pantry shelves. MHC's food pantry is a wonderful place. the premise is to offer food to people in need, in a grocery store-like environment, where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. the criteria for shopping there is simple: you can shop if you don't have enough money to eat, and it operates mostly on an honor system. they serve an average of 1,878 people per week.

they also offer workshops on nutrition, gardening, and food preservation, and host an in-store lending library and resource shelf. many customers are also volunteers, and the result is an inclusive, close-knit, supportive community.

i wasn't sure, at first, if cosmo would enjoy it or not. i should have guessed that he would quickly get into the groove of taking items out of boxes, and placing them neatly on the shelves, in perfect rows, with the labels facing out. sometimes he likes to create elaborate systems of handing things up to me (if the shelf is too high) which may not be as "helpful," but it is cooperative, and engaging for both of us. he also likes to sort the recycling, and help tidy up before the shoppers arrive.

i thought he might get distracted by the food, and only want to taste things. this is often what happens when he "helps" me cook. but he understood early on, that we are just organizing the food, for other people, and he's fine with that. i also worried his interest would wane after a half hour or so, but he really likes being there, never wants to leave early, and cries if we can't make it to our shift. i am not sure if he gets the concept of "helping people," i think he just likes the idea of working, and of being needed, in a setting that is not his home. the staff are so welcoming, we both felt like part of the family right away.

it has been great for me too. i'm forming new friendships, and i had the chance to share my passion for local food preservation, by co-teaching their canning and jamming workshops last week. we've also passed on some of our excess produce from the garden, as part of the plant a row for the hungry program. i am grateful to live in such a vibrant community, and to have the opportunity to contribute.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the reminder about Plant a Row! We'd done it in the past, but never remembered this year.

Also, thanks for sharing about volunteering at Mother Hubbard's. The kids have donated money to charities of their choices for many years now, but I think hands-on volunteering is in order.

Cosmo is a sweet and smart kid!

erin said...

kayte! this is amazing! thank you so much for posting this and for sharing it with me. it is such a joy to have you and cosmo, and i'm so happy that you both feel so good about being here. and by the way, you're 40?!

mep said...

What a great place and what a fantastic activity for you and Cosmo to do together!

I share your fantasy of one day having a home for everything. I continue to believe that I will figure it all out one day.

Actchy said...

If only more people had Cosmo's dedication to sorting recycles. And I mention this with a finger pointed at whomever is the jackass who puts a half-full plastic cup of Starbucks iced coffee, still with straw, in the recycling container on the floor of my building. ::insert Actchy shaking fist::