Every once in a while, I would enter my predecessor’s office while she was still our director, and she would reverently whisper, “Do you hear that?”
At first, I was confused by her question. There was a lot of noise at Fishline, that was for sure, as volunteers were shuffling food in and out of the market, clients were shopping, children in various stages of not-so-patient waiting.
But she reminded me, “If you listen with your heart, you will hear a wonderful hum. It may seem like chaos, but there are times when everything is moving smoothly that you can really feel the positive energy, the contentment, and joy of a shared mission. That is the hum you hope for every day.”
I have since learned to hear that hum. Even in our little building on 3rd Avenue, with its crowded corridors and tiny market, people found a way to work and shop together with grace and courtesy.
The hum is louder now that we’ve moved into a larger facility with its many more moving parts. With double the number of volunteers and a growing number of client visits each day, there is a whir of energy and activity that impresses every visitor. At the food bank alone, 12-15 volunteers are needed for each shift, and they move with enthusiasm and order, surprised at the way that simple chores can be so intoxicating.
Perhaps it is in the shopping experience that the hum is noticed the most. Our lighter, more spacious store setting has contributed to a relaxing and uplifting environment that everyone can feel. Volunteers chat with grateful clients, donors stop by throughout the day to drop off their offerings and to visit for a while, others come to consult with onsite employment specialists or to attend a seminar.
Sometimes, just a chance to connect with good people can dissolve the loneliness so many feel in their lives. We understand more than ever that we have an opportunity to nourish people in ways beyond the daily bread we start with.
Helpers often tell us how taken aback they were to learn how strong and impactful the return on this investment can be. They could never have predicted the feeling of joining in this age-old dance, the beautiful result of charity starting at home. It is an experience like no other.
“Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”
James Barrie, the author who created Peter Pan, once said, “Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” We see evidence of this maxim every day. We come, thinking we are here to help others, and we find out that we are the ones who receive the greatest gifts. The difficult life situations our clients face can transform into bonding experiences that draw us closer as a community and open the way to mutual fulfillment and purpose.
I now believe this hum is a sign that we have uncovered one of the paths to true happiness and peace of mind: When we help each other, we help ourselves, and the universe conspires to turn that energy into a beautiful song that fills our hearts.
~ Mary Nader, Executive Director, NK Fishline