As most of you know, one of the goals or wishes I have for my life is to rediscover who I am now that I am no longer working full time as an elementary school librarian. You can read a little more about that from past posts here and here.
I have learned that rediscovery is a process and it doesn’t happen overnight. At least not for me. I have spent this first year of retirement trying on different part time jobs and volunteer activities in search of something that’s the right fit. Something that will help me to feel useful and productive and happy!
Lorena is my former library assistant. After graduating with a degree in education, Lorena wasn’t sure she wanted to teach. In an effort to determine if education was indeed the right career choice, she decided to volunteer at Moye for a time to get a better feel for working on an elementary campus. I was thrilled when she walked into my library to volunteer. You may remember reading about Lorena here as well as some of the other angels who blessed my time at Moye and elsewhere.
Lorena went from being a volunteer to being paid by an Institute of Library and Museum Science (IMLS) Goal Program grant to being hired as a full time library monitor (her official title). In my last semester at Moye, the district discontinued the library monitor position and she began working in the classrooms as a paraprofessional. Although neither of us is still working with the district, we have kept up with each other and enjoy time together regularly. It is Lorena who brought me to the Mustard Seed Cafe.
So what is the Mustard Seed Cafe? They are a self-described, not-for-profit “community cafe” whose mission is: “Building community by providing nutritious and delicious meals to the people of El Paso regardless of their ability to pay while using local, organic, and sustainably grown ingredients whenever possible.” [source] The cafe is also the realization of the combined dream or inspiration of three friends, Christi Brown, Patsy Burdick, and Shelley Speicher. They become convinced that a pay-what-you-can café is God’s invitation to learn humility, compassion, kindness, and love. Their idea is to create a table where everyone eats…regardless of their ability to pay. And that is exactly what they have done.
Lorena took me to the Mustard Seed Cafe for the first time in the fall, and we volunteered to work in the garden where much of the cafe’s produce is grown. We weeded and thinned the rows of lettuce and kale and caught up on each other’s lives.
By doing so, we earned a token that we could use to “pay” for our lunch that day.
We continued our visit over turkey chili and garden vegan cornbread. Lorena introduced me to Christi Brown, one of the Mustard Seed founding mothers who showed me the little library they are establishing in a corner of the cafe. Christi pulled a book from one of the shelves of the library’s little bookcase explaining that Lisa Wingate’s novel The Summer Kitchen was the original inspiration for her vision. Christi loaned me the book and I am reading it now.
My second visit to the Mustard Seed Cafe had me smashing pumpkins. Literally. We were actually smashing orange gourds with shovels and hoes. Fun! Great way to take out some frustrations. The smashed pulp, seeds and pumpkin rind were added to the compost pile that is used to fertilize the garden. Lunch that day was a hearty vegan soup and a cranberry, kale and goat cheese salad. Maybe even kale I picked with my very own hands??
I volunteered at the cafe again this week. I worked in the garden again, picking lettuce and learning how to vinegar wash it for the cafe kitchen. It was a 70 degree winter morning in El Paso filled with glorious sunshine. I felt so fortunate to be able to do some little something toward helping out at the Mustard Seed.
I forgot to take a picture of Wednesday’s lunch until I had eaten every bite. But trust me, it was delicious. Half a tuna sandwich, half a grilled veggie sandwich on freshly baked, focaccia bread, baked kale chips (guess where the veggies came from?), and a chocolate cookie made with bits of ginger root and pineapple in the dough (Lorena mixed up the cookies the day before). SO GOOD!
I am going to try to commit to volunteering at the Mustard Seed at least once a month. Being there feels something like being enveloped in a group hug. It feels warm and safe and comfortable. And I feel good about the little bit I am able to help. Christi has invited me to start working in the kitchen so I am going to take an online food handler’s course over the next few weeks so that I can be a part of the magic that goes into making all of the fabulous food.
Thank you, Lorena, for discovering the Mustard Seed Cafe and for inviting me to join you as a volunteer there. I have enjoyed working with you again.
If you would like to learn more about Mustard Seed Cafe, please click here.
Hugs and sticky kisses,