Giving back to the community is important, especially to Jens Stoltenberg who said “When autumn darkness falls, what we will remember are the small acts of kindness: a cake, a hug, an invitation to talk, and every single rose. These are all expressions of a nation coming together and caring about its people.” What Stoltenberg meant with this quote is that when people reach their darkest hours, what they remember is the small things that other went out of their way to do for them. People cherish these moments of joy and satisfaction from another person’s actions. This fall I had the chance to take Dr. Soldani’s AMH 2020 class where we were given opportunities to help the local community. Specifically, Dr. Soldani puts on a regular dinner and an annual Thanksgiving feast for the Veterans Village in Tallahassee.
Being a veteran myself, I thought it was only right to participate in at least one of these dinner’s throughout the year. I decided on the Thanksgiving Day dinner because the holidays are when people reach their lowest points and could use someone to be around. This Thanksgiving I cooked and prepared a ham for the meal. I was pleased to see the over a handful of others who showed up to help with this dinner. Professors, current students, former students and friends of Dr. Soldani came together. All bringing a large smile and hot food to give to the veterans. Prior to serving the food I got to sit down and have multiple conversations with my fellow veterans. I really could tell they enjoyed having someone to share their military stories with and also to hear some new stories from myself. As a group effort we got to personally talk to and serve each veteran who came up. Everyone being there and serving up big warm meals for the veterans gave them a real smile and sense of belonging in the room. It felt like a family affair, even if that feeling lasted for just a short couple hours. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to meet every veteran staying in Veterans Village, but we did get make an abundance of extra plates to go for everyone who wanted more. After serving all the food and cleaning up, some stayed around conversating for a while truly enjoying others presence. After leaving, I felt bad that I hadn’t stuck around longer to converse with others because you never know what a single conversation can do for someone.
This dinner resulted in it meaning a lot to me. From being in the Marine Corps, I live off the core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment. I believe going and providing a family dinner environment for these men and women was the definition of having honor for yourself, and your country. I strongly believe in the Marine saying, “No Man [or Women] Left Behind,” and that’s what these dinners are all about. These men and women at Veterans Village have given the same or if not more of a sacrifice to their country as I have. With this, it is only right that I come support them while they are down. I would wish that other veterans would do the same for me for when I am in my darkest hours. As you looked around and saw the conversations in the room for the day I was there, you could see the excitement in the conversations. To us, these were just normal everyday conversations, but for these men and women the conversating gave a sense of home. While you are serving, those around you are your family. Since I left my house at 17, I have spent my holidays with other Marines, they truly become your family. It doesn’t matter if another veteran or I didn’t serve at the same time. What you learn in the military is that everyone is your brother or sister and to always treat them as such. This dinner showed this despite everyone not being in the military. The general feeling of being there for others shined through.
After spending my Thanksgiving this way, I truly hope to make this a tradition for the next few years of living in Tallahassee. I strongly believe others should come as well. It doesn’t have to be on Thanksgiving Day, just simply any of the dinners Dr. Soldani puts on. Going to these you learn how much it matters to other by just giving a small amount of your time to them. Relating back to Stoltenberg’s quote, the smallest things like some food or just talking to someone can change their outlook. When you give back to someone who needs some outside help, they are going to remember your actions. I think others should pride themselves in the things they do for their communities. The biggest things you might do in life will most likely not be your biggest payday, or the day you bought your dream house. Instead it can be the incredible feeling after having an interactive conversation with a veteran after giving them a hot meal. Treat others the way you want to be treated is what children are preached growing up and still needs to be said as an adult. Remember that the people in need weren’t always in that situation, just a short time prior they could have been in the same shoes as you, but one wrong turn led them to where they are. A small fraction of your time to make an effort in helping other can change their projection. If someone you know or even yourself got into those same situations, you would want others to come give support to. It is important to remember the small things you do for others because when someone is in their darkest hours, a small hug and conversation can be the match that ignites them back to shining bright.