It happened so that in August, I was able to come to ODS to cook dinner for three weeks in a row. And it opened me a completely new experience. When I first started coming to ODS, I was told that I could be flexible and come there when I have time. That was one of the reasons I chose this program -I thought I would be able to fit my activities in whenever. I can write volumes about how I started to come to the ODS (Open Door Shelter) and how I was slowly winning the trust of the residents, about all the ups and downs.
As for the flexibility, I was never required from me to come with a specific frequency or on certain days of the week. But then I started to hear the “old” residents telling the new ones “she is coming every week.” And when we were trying to film “a cooking show” a boy posing as a show host would say to the camera: Our friend Ms. Henrietta is coming every week. I also hated it when I was not able to tell the youth when I am coming next time. I knew that some of them would be gone by my next time, and a half of the others will forget what I said, but I hated this moment when they would go: oh, whenever you have time! We appreciate you coming …
In August it was a 5-day interval each time. And each time I come, the youth were ready for me. It was a happy combination of having several young people genuinely interested in cooking and me being consistent. The last time, which happened to be two days ago, it was my dream coming true: I didn’t do anything myself, except for showing techniques, and five folks were busy in the kitchen. Neither I nor any of the staff had to call for extra help – they would come and pick the task. We were cooking parmesan chicken strips, and this dish calls for a number of small tasks that are easily divided between several people. It was what I was hoping for for a long time: being one big family making dinner together.
Coming home that day, I thought of one more thing. Although I’ve always enjoyed cooking at the ODS, I would feel entirely emotionally drained when I come home, as if I’ve given all of myself to those who needed my love and support. And at some point, this changed.
The last several weeks at work were so exhausting that I felt I am about to collapse when I was approaching the shelter after work. But while being there, I would receive so much love and warmth, that I would return home refreshed and empowered. So now it’s not just I helping these young people, but also them helping me 🙂