I wasn’t cut out to be an assembly line worker.  I enjoy physical labor in a limited way – using a tiller to prepare a garden is about my limit.  The last time I tried using a chain saw I ended up with tennis elbow (better than ending up with chainsaw elbow playing tennis).

So what in the world am I doing moving fifty-pound containers of rice and man-handling thousand-pound pallets of food?

Easy.  I’m a knowledge worker.

You think I jest.  The main focus of my free time recently has been Kids Against Hunger, the local branch of a national charity.  My church supports this charity, and we continue to raise money to buy supplies for them.

I participated in the Million Meal Marathon the last weekend of February, helping in 11 of the 12 two-hour sessions (I skipped Sunday morning to go to church).  There was excitement at the beginning – a photographer from the newspaper (follow-up here), a reporter from the TV station.  I didn’t make it into the presentations, but I was a support person.  I greeted the TV crew when they arrived, talked to the paper photographer both times she was there

(but not at this location), trailed the TV camera guy, helped the paper’s videographer gather his lost supplies.

And I worked.  I got a printer going so that they wouldn’t run out of sign-up forms.  I nursed back to life a laptop whose ethernet port had gone bad.  I found out how to determine the credit card type from the number (Google is my friend).  On Friday I worked enough that they gave me a commemorative T-shirt of the weekend.  By Saturday, they had made me a part of the Red Shirt team, the volunteer coordinators who help run the packing lines.  So I put on my KAH shirt over my Connections shirt and acted like I knew what I was doing.

And I helped.  I hung up coats.  I directed people to the bathrooms.  I picked up trash, trained people to pack the pallets, moved full and empty boxes, celebrated at milestones, and played a cheerleader to keep spirits up.  I swept the floors, climbed to the front of a loaded truck to count pallets inside, and kept toddlers out of dangerous areas.

And I took some pictures.  These are from my phone, because I didn’t want to carry a big camera with me.

Some of the guests seemed presidential, from a Tricky Dick imitator

to future Abraham Lincolns.

And then there are the obligatory before and after shots. The warehouse section of the building started off packed full

and ended up as storage space for ready-to-ship pallets

Rice and soy (and unmade boxes)

gives way to a lot of empty space

And those cardboard boxes?

we went through mountains of them

And we made it.

The official count

And I was there. They had a banner for everyone at the last session to sign

I found a nice place for my SA to fit in

My church volunteered there on Saturday night. We brought our donation, and received a commemorative food packet

The big check made it up onto their wall

There were two things that struck me through it all.  First, I was a knowledge worker here.  My primary job was not to pack the food (although one session we did end up with a Red Shirt table, and I was a two-fisted soy and rice pourer).  I didn’t take credit card orders, nor did I talk up front to the gathered people.  But I helped all of those things happen.  I pointed out where new supplies came from.  I went and got plastic gloves for people.  I helped the credit card takers, and discussed the presentation with Larry, the man in charge.  One of the neat memories I have is taking an empty cart of supplies from someone, freeing him to do his work, and then turning around without moving my feet and passing it to someone else to get it refilled again.  That encapsulated what I was doing – my Red Shirt made me a locus, a transfer point.  I knew what I was doing.

And what I was doing was saving lives.  The second thing that struck me is that when I packed a meal, when I poured a cup of rice into a plastic bag, that rice would directly feed a starving child.  I’m not giving money to some distant charity who will work through subcontractors and eventually a portion of my donation would potentially help someone.  When they counted Three, Four and the soy and rice went in, those would go to feed a person who didn’t have food.  Their skin color would probably be different than mine, and their lifetime income probably won’t touch what I make in a year.  Doesn’t matter.  God gave me gifts of parents who cared (and taught me well), a country that still is a land of plenty, a wife who loves me and supports my charity work, and a church that chooses to act locally now with a global impact, and perhaps reaching out directly later on.  With all these blessings, how can I not give?

And after this rush, this four-day high which left me exhausted, I went back to my job where they pay me money.  And I realized that I’m doing the same thing there.  People come to me for instructions.  I remember things, and I share what I know in an attempt to make the processes move better.  I tweak where I can, gently rebuke where I have to, and play a cheerleader to keep spirits up.  There’s a lot more accountability at my day job, but I also have some freedom to move around and help sticking processes when I can.

I didn’t see anybody from work (although I saw a former colleague and his family – Hi, Brian!), so I think the common denominator has to be me.  I am a knowledge worker.  I think of myself as a catalyst.  My new manager calls me an enabler, and he means it well.  I’m learning to understand the good side of that term, which might be a bigger part of my career in the future.

But whatever happens – if I help Kids Against Hunger for decades, or if I lose my job tomorrow and end up out on the street, eating meals I had helped pack – through it all I know that God is good.

And that works for me.