We had been asked for a date to serve a small group described as foster kids, who were meeting from all over the country in Seaside, Oregon’s headquarters for the foster club, and who their director believed would gain allot from one of our dining experiences. We finally settled on a lunch experience on my day off, this past Monday. It was two years in the making already so we felt it was worth it to give up one day off.
So we put together a four course luncheon for who we pictured was our audience. We served fresh veggie and Oregon pink shrimp spring rolls with a gazpacho shooter to start, followed by a tenderloin kabob with Koren spices and a vegetable fried rice; next a fresh salad with strawberries and blue cheese and last a double chocolate cup cake with graham cracker crust and a whipped marshmallow meringue on top. It sounded like foods “kids” might like and we came in will no other expectation.
We were anxious to hear more about the Foster Club organization, but waited until we had served a couple courses before we took time to go around and hear from them. Lenore asked each to tell us their name, where they were from and what they hoped to accomplish in their lives. After the first two took their turns, we were hooked and almost fixated on their every word. Our emotions were stirring up and kept us fully attending till the last story was told. It took only about 15 minutes. I was stunned by their poise and articulation in telling what seemed like deep personal insights that I imagined the average person coming to sometime in their thirties. Each told how long they had been in foster care and one expanded saying that during their time in foster care that they had attended 17 different schools before graduating from high school. One said she was 21 and a senior at Stanford but that she had been in foster care for several years and found that she had grown to appreciate that her experience with Foster Club now was certainly helping her meet her goals as an adult. Every story hit us in such a way that we were instantly changed on the spot. Our own attitudes and understanding of the foster care system were coming into focus and would be changed forever by this day.
Lenore was too choked up by the time the last person spoke, so I rescued her and pulled our attention back to the food. All the time I was aware now that my job was not nearly as important or meaningful as what these kids were going to accomplish with their lives. A few of them were going to leave the next morning to testify on Capitol hill, in Washington DC about foster care. To say we were humbled is an understatement.
We were changed. The rest of the meal we laughed and talked about food and Harry Potter, hoping no one would say too much as Lenore and I were planning to see the movie that evening.
Upon saying goodbye everyone came to each of us and shook our hands, often giving us tight hugs as well, again with that unexpected self-confidence and poise of a much older person. They each expressed their enjoyment and appreciation for the day. One woman said she never met anyone like my wife who had only known them for 2o minutes, yet who understood and she could see how much she cared.
Lenore’s tears were from joy for the most part. A faith in the character and leadership of these individuals. It was exhilarating. It was a good day off!