I myself step up in tornado relief

May 26, 2011


I’m not trying to make it sound overly grandiose, I was just going for parallel construction with the title from Monday night’s entry because this is a related story. As the big scheme goes, it was only a baby step.

Tonight, I joined the Smack Shack food truck crew in north Minneapolis and helped dish up free food for tornado survivors for three and a half hours. It was nothing fancy—hotdogs with or without chili, some Hamburger Helper pasta, and ice cream. Chicken nuggets and chicken wings also made brief appearances. But for the neighborhood people, many of whom literally have no roof over their heads, or who asked for extra to take back to the people who had stayed at the house to safeguard it, it was plenty alright.

The important thing here for me is that this was the first volunteering of any kind I’ve ever done in my entire life. For some background on how out of character this is for me, please take a minute to read this recent post, the theme of which was a fortune cookie fortune which read “conscience is a man’s compass” and which involved some self-examination on the topic.

I can’t claim that it was some bolt of lightning striking that got me out there tonight. It’s true that when I see accounts of disasters on the news, I sometimes wish I was in a position to be able to jet off to the location and give some man-hours to clean-up, recovery, whatever. My thinking is usually in terms of physical labor versus interacting with people. I am uncomfortable around people a lot of the time.

My reason was much more mundane and self-serving. Smack Shack is one of my favorites of the food trucks that began appearing in the Twins Cities last summer. As a loyal customer both to the truck and to the bar in whose kitchen they wintered, I have established an acquaintance with the proprietor and chef, Josh Thoma. The trucks fascinate me because all of the chef-proprietors turn out amazing food from a kitchen that fits in the back of a UPS van.

When the tornados hit last Sunday and I watched the live feed from one of the news helicopters, I again had the stirrings of the feeling of wanting to help, and wished I didn’t have a really big project at work that was due yesterday (and which I’ll finally finish tomorrow morning) so that I could take a couple days off for this local disaster. But I did have to go to work, so all I did on Monday was make a donation to the org GiveMN.org.

Then in the afternoon, the tweets started to come through. Several food trucks, including my three favorites, were going to make their ways to the tornado zone to hand out free food. I instinctively thought that offering my labor to one of them would be an easy way to help for a few hours and give me a little brush with food truck fame and allow me to importantly note that I worked side-by-side with Chef in tornado relief. Unfortunately, I was busy Monday night.

Due to not finishing my work project on time I didn’t feel I could go out Tuesday evening either, which I found particularly bothersome after Chef Thoma tweeted for helpers at Smack Shack. Finally tonight, Wednesday, I was available and got myself to the truck right after work.

So that brings me back to what I wondered about at the end of the “conscience” post. My reasons for being this evening’s hotdog bun stager extraordinaire were at least seventy-five percent selfish. But would the people who got some free food and could watch their kids being delighted by a small bowl of ice cream with sprinkles have cared if they knew why I was really there? Isn’t it okay that whatever my motivation, everybody got something out of it?

I can’t say explicitly that it was a life-changing experience and that I’m going to run off and join the Peace Corps or even that I’ll start volunteering at some local soup kitchen. What I can say is that at the moment, I seem to be overcome with an unusual peaceful, semi-fulfilled, extremely mellow feeling.


Photo by Smack Shack

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: