About “giving” & the experience of cooking for Vienna’s “Gruft”
When you are one of these last-minute X-MAS present shoppers like I, you surely know the stress and hustle until Christmas Eve. Don’t get me wrong – I am really into making gifts and always put a lot of effort and love into my present selection and partly self-made gift production. No wonder that especially at Christmas time I start thinking a lot about giving.
It is not a secret that we are facing an unbearable inequality on our planet. And this even though the resources itself would be sufficient to feed everyone on this earth. Human greed and selfishness on a big scale are to blame. Human beings, politics, nations are constantly striving for higher standards of living, more money and greater power. And this has been yet achieved at the expense of others. A trend that has come to stay and will get even worse in future. The gap between poor and rich is already dramatically expanding – globally, regional and nation-wide like here in Austria.
Of course, as mentioned, the development is a global one with greater influences. But I like the thought of individually being able to make the world a better place. I belief every single one of us can help with the smallest contributions and actions.
One of which I was luckily part of last weekend, when I cooked with a couple of friends for Vienna’s Gruft. It is the city’s most well-known facility for homeless. It offers warm meals, places to sleep, clean clothing and possibilities for showering. Find out more about the Gruft online: http://www.gruft.at/
Cooking for the Gruft
We prepared 400 (!) “Wiener Schnitzel” (self-crumbed of course) with rice and vegetables and a mandarin and self made Christmas cookie for dessert.
Groups of volunteers (6-7 persons) are always more than welcome to prepare a meal for 180-200 homeless either for lunch or dinner. The decision of the meal is up to you, as well as suppling the necessary ingredients. Indications for required amounts of food (as you probably are also not used to cook for such a huge amount of people) can be found – among all other relevant information – in an online fact sheet here.
After the cooking part, approx. 4 people of the group can also take part in handing out the finished meals to the homeless. This was -for me personally- the most emotional part of the day. You get into direct contact with the people, who have been lining up for up to an hour in advance. I was impressed by their patience and quietness.
Supreme rule for the food distribution is FAIRNESS.
We were strictly instructed by the Gruft’s friendly and expert staff to not allow discussions on meal sizes or demands for refills or larger portions. This was by far the toughest part for me. There was one especially impactful situation that I will always associate with equality and fair resources allocation:
It was while we have paused meal hand-out for 5 minutes, awaiting a main dish refill, when a woman approached me. She asked me for some cookies and told me she had not yet eaten anything the whole day. Lunch distribution time (from 12:45-13:30) was almost over at that time and the box in front of me was still full with at least 150 cookies. I did not hesitate a second and simply handed over a few cookies. I felt proud and happy being able to help so easily. But a Gruft’s staff member explained me the problem that could arise with such a blindfold gesture. In this very situation I did not quite understand his objection. But I have been reflecting this situation in the context of the earlier mentioned equality. Well know, I completely understand the dimension of it. It is not hard to imagine the consequences if all of the 240 persons suddenly would have required to receive also the same amount of cookies.
I will always remember people’s gratitude . Every single “thank you” or compliment towards our meal’s taste left a warm felling and underlines the citation of this blog’s cover pic: “Only by giving you are able to receive more than you already have”.
I definitely recommend everyone making this extra-ordinary experience. It is a very nice way to spend a couple of hours with your friends, jointly cooking and chatting along. It is also a creative idea for companies to organize customer events or team buildings in a different setting and charitable cause at the same time. In any case – you will receive more than you give.