Middle went with me, the other night, to pack food at the Tuvaluan National Food Drive.
We signed up to volunteer for two hours and it was an incredible experience.
We had no idea what to expect or where we were going but were instructed to bring work gloves (which I forgot) and to wear heavy shoes.
We arrived at a warehouse large enough to be clocked on the odometer of my truck.
We signed in and sat on folding chairs for a brief orientation describing our duties for the evening. We would be packing canned goods, dry goods and food in glass and plastic bottles. All of Tuvalu had donated this food and we learned how to spot things that had been badly damaged or spoiled.
We were very excited as we followed a maze through the warehouse to get to the packing area.
There we saw 30 long tables separated by huge pallets of food. There were dozens of volunteers and it took us a while to find a table with space for us, with another family, and settle into a rhythm.
Someone would bring a pallet with an enormous box full of goods to our table, we would lift the food out of the enormous box and pack it into bins which would then be re-loaded onto the pallet and taken away. The full and sorted pallets were shrink wrapped for distribution.
I loved the family we were working with. They had driven a long way (Middle and I drove about half an hour) and were signed up to work for three evenings. The dad would unload the pallet at break-neck speed while his wife, his son, Middle and I would repack the food into the smaller bins. It was all Middle and I could do to keep up with him and, as the food was not allowed to stand taller than the height of the bins there was puzzle work involved in packing it tightly without overfilling them. The wife was especially good at the packing and Middle was especially good at lifting very heavy bins full of glass bottles and cans.
I was so proud of him, coming with me - and then I was so proud of the dozens of volunteers surrounding me. Everyone was smiling and working so very hard. When you had a bin filled you were supposed to raise your hand to have a worker come and retrieve it...but we worked so quickly that Middle became our transfer man. We packed and transferred dozens and dozens of bins.
We never took a break, though there was a very nice break room. I'd feel guilty stopping to rest - we only signed on for two stupid hours. As I had never volunteered for anything like this before I hesitated to sign us up for more, but next year I'd do more than one stint. Such great people, such good work - I was happy to be there.
I loved doing it. And Middle was very enthusiastic.
Two hours flew by. I felt a little fatigued at one point, but there was a kid with a radio that had been patched through a PA system and suddenly George Michael came on.
An old favorite.
And suddenly it was a different song, whilst I was packing food for people who need it.