A big year in the books for me was 2009. I got married to my best friend. Together we bought our first house and sold our condo. Little did I know, more was on the way. It was also the year I became a member of the Paragon Optimist Club.
Being a member of the Paragon Optimist Club has increased my desire to be a better person. During my membership ceremony I was told, “I will learn the Optimist Creed, a genuine challenge to all men and women to live by.” I still to this day try to live by this creed. “To think only of the best. To work only for the best. And to expect only the best.” So, when the opportunity presented itself for me to join the board of a new meal ministry at my church, Trinity Lutheran Church, I did not hesitate.
I happen to love to cook, but besides that I knew this meal ministry was going to serve a greater purpose. The goal was to create a safe place for all to gather. We wanted to create an environment of togetherness – the once a week family meal. We wanted to create a meal that surpassed the traditional soup kitchen by opening our doors to those who were hungry, tired, cold, hot, wet, lonely, afraid, and so on. Everyone who enters walks up and pour their own drinks. Sit anywhere in the room. Then they are served their meal just like being in a restaurant. Most weeks the meals are served on real plates, in real bowls and with real utensils rather than paper and plastic. Again, the focus was to create a place of belonging. “To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.”
At the very first, ‘Feed Your Neighbor’ meal ministry board meeting, one of the most important obligations was to get volunteers scheduled to donate meals. The Paragon Optimist Club was the first organization that popped into my head. A fair amount of our community arriving for the meals would be children. Participating would be another opportunity for the club to reach out and be, “Friends of Youth.” Friends of Youth, is an Optimist slogan I too learned at my membership ceremony. As anticipated the club members eagerly accepted to be volunteers. For the last nine years the Paragon Optimist Club has cooked, plated, served, and occasionally provided special treats not just once a year, but 4 times a year! If you’re a person who’s into numbers, the Club has prepared and donating food for 100+ guests each time. Of course, meal ministry has repeat visitors, but the Paragon Optimist Club has provided 100+ smiles 4 times a year for the past 9 years…. which adds up to at least 3,600 smiles and a chance to enjoy a family meal!
I sometimes wonder if my parents had not been Optimists, if they had not raised me to be an Optimist, would this amazing experience have happened in my life? I realize that for me, only God knows the answer to that. Regardless, I am blessed to have two life changing groups in my life that have pushed me to be a better person. I am now presented with the task of passing these same ideals on to my children so that they may too strive to be an OPTIMIST!