Deb and I pull into the back parking lot. I hop out of the truck, jog up the stairs and wave to Andrew through the kitchen window. He waves and motions that he’ll meet us out back. We’ve just arrived at Haley House on a (finally!) sunny Thursday afternoon and are a little more than halfway through one of the busiest days on the road on Blanche’s route, which is centered around downtown Boston. We primarily spend Thursday afternoons circling the one way streets of the South End. The tree lined blocks and laid-brick sidewalks give this part of the city a distinct neighborhood feel.
Andrew props the basement door open and meets us at the back of the truck. Amidst offering Andrew different products, such as seltzers, olive oil, beautiful greens, sweet Champagne mangoes and Sumo citrus (some of his favorites), the three of us chat. Deb congratulates him on his recent Boston Marathon finish, I figure out that he went to college with one of my former summer camp cabin mates. The world gets smaller and smaller by the minute, the connections bigger and deeper.
As we’re wrapping up at the truck, as always, Andrew offers us coffee, water and lunch. Since Thursdays tend to be heavy and hectic out on the road we usually decline, but today the sun is out, there’s a slight breeze rustling the spring blooms and simultaneously brushing any feeling that we need to rush aside. Deb and I look at each other and then turn to Andrew and ask, “What’s for lunch?”
As he welcomes us inside he lists off the menu: pasta with marinara sauce, green beans and onions, ground turkey, roasted corn, a green salad with homemade dressing and a fresh fruit salad. Many of the ingredients that went into this meal came from our delivery earlier in the week.
After filling plates of our own, Andrew ushers Deb and I to the front of the house where the kitchen opens up into the dining area. He silences the room and introduces us, explains that we work for Lovin’ Spoonfuls, and that we deliver much of the food that ends up on their community’s plates every week. We get a round of applause and smiles and take two open seats next to a gentleman who has a steaming plate of food.
He introduces himself as John and begins to chat with us about the history of Haley House. Deb shares some knowledge she has as well; I chime in now and then but I am mostly just taking it all in–the pictures on the wall that sequence the history of the space as an informal timeline, the company we’re currently keeping, the buzzing conversations and full tables surrounding us.
This is what it’s all about. As I take it all in I feel the stigmas, the judgment, the shyness, the outside world fall away–I am left feeling the gratitude, warmth and safe haven that defines this space.
I drift back into our conversation with John. In his thick Boston accent he explains that he’s walked in Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger twenty times. He emphasizes his love for his city and the power of the walk. He explains that it’s final miles are all about embracing the beauty and pride of Boston and the sense of belonging, of community and of family–that same neighborhood feel that can be felt in the South End transverses the entire city. John names the skyline, the Charles, the Common and Public Garden in bloom and of course the Red Sox as some of his favorite parts of his hometown. His Boston pride gleams as he glibly expresses his sadness over the Celtics loss the night before and how he’s hoping for a big Sox win this evening. Plates cleared and bellies filled, Deb and I tell John we need to get back on the road. He looks up at us and says, “Well ya can’t go, I have more stories.” We smile and add, “Don’t worry–we’ll be back.” We spy Andrew across the room sitting amongst a full table of guests and we give him a big wave of thanks. As Deb and I head back out to the truck I realize that the sense of calm I felt sitting in the dining area hasn’t left me yet.
There are many moments where it is easy to get caught up in a day on the road, feeling that you need to move as quickly and efficiently as possible to get from stop to stop by certain times. I love the pace of the work we do, the way our days are organized and the challenges that each day on the road brings. But one of my favorite parts of every day is when we arrive at a store to pick up donations or pull up to a beneficiary to make a delivery and we slow down, we say hello, ask how things are, share a laugh or listen to a story. It is those tiny connections, gestures, moments that make all the difference to this job and to me in particular. I am so grateful for and astounded at the number of people I’ve met and gotten to know in only a few short months working for Lovin,’ and those moments, introductions and handshakes with a smile never really stop. There’s always a new name to learn, person to get to know, hand to be grasped. There’s always another story to be told—we just have to make sure it’s heard.
By Emily Leonard
Quarterly, we invite a Food Rescue Coordinator to contribute to the blog, shedding light on their time on the road and experiences with our vendor and beneficiary partners.