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What I Learned From “Out Of The Cold”

Today marked the end of our church’s 2nd year of involvement with Out of the Cold.  Out of the Cold is a program where a church, synagogue or other facility, give shelter to some homeless guests overnight, feed them dinner and breakfast and help them on their way for the day with a bag lunch.  It’s a safe, loving way to care for the guests and do something practical for their needs on cold winter nights.

Last year I was only able to help out 1 night with the “entertainment” (playing guitar and singing with two of my kids) while my wife participated a number of other evenings.  This year I dove in with both feet and ended up ‘working’ 10 of the 11 weeks (I missed one because I was sick 🙁 ).

We’d originally signed up for the of the Monday evening shifts — hospitality, registration and dish-washing — but ended up doing a few breakfast shifts on Tuesday mornings.  We loved the breakfast fun so much (and they were having trouble finding people to work at the church from 5:00am to 7:30am) that we ended up switching to breakfasts for 9 of the 11 weeks!!

Now, with today being the last breakfast, I’m already starting to miss it a bit.  I’m sure I’m going to miss getting up early on Tuesday mornings and help out making wonderful breakfasts — bacon, eggs (scrambled & fried), pancakes, french toast, oatmeal, cereal, coffee & juice — and enjoying the fun of getting together with 4 or 5 others to have fun a the same time.

So what have a learned?

  1. Making breakfast for that many people is great fun!
  2. Bacon doesn’t need to be cooked for 12 minutes per side at 425F (we found out the hard way the first week, that 5 minutes per side @ 352F is more than sufficient)!
  3. People like variety, but most take the same thing week after week 🙂
  4. Stores are amazingly generous!
  5. You can improvise a lot of different meal options in a pinch 😉  (like whipping up french toast when the regular bread didn’t come in that week and all you had were french baguettes for toast which they didn’t eat).
  6. Helping out and hearing stories is SO rewarding and satisfying!
  7. I know it’s just a little bit that we do for them, but the guests are always so appreciative!
  8. The guests stories are amazing, and sad.  The unfortunately situations they find themselves in and usually heartbreaking.  You want to do so much more!
  9. It takes nearly a lot of people to run OOTC each week (around 65 to 70 each week!)

What a blessing it’s been to participate this year.  I can only hope that my schedule next year will allow me to participate once again.

UPDATE: By the way, after I posted the above, I ran across this VERY interesting video of a social experiment around how we treat the seemingly homeless.  Watch it!  And think about how YOU would react.



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