This past week, all the way down in the basement kitchen of Zumbro Lutheran, our volunteers rolled and sorted all the burritos to be distributed—as they are each week we serve. While there is always an interesting conversation or story being shared among volunteers, this week we stumbled upon the idea of love languages. If you don’t know what love languages are, there was a whole book written on them by a guy named Gary Chapman. Chapman listed and explained 5 different categories or ‘languages’ that he thinks almost all people use to show others that they care, but after hearing the volunteers’ responses I feel that he may have left out a big one.
As each volunteer in the assembly line listed off their top one or two languages, I was curious to hear what they each had to say. One volunteer in particular, someone I have come to know since starting at Zumbro, had me wondering which they would choose. It was at that moment that I realized their love language was not one of the conventional five. It was food. This is comically obvious if you know who this person is, but nonetheless it got me thinking. I realized that Mr. Chapman may have missed a critical love language in his list, a particular form of love that requires work, time, and skill.
Food. Ah yes, the labor of love. Food as a love language is a complex thing that I would argue does not fit under any other love language given its many layers. Food is not only a necessity, but it also takes a great deal of time, effort, and planning to prepare it. For many people, food is their way of saying I would give up my time and energy for you. It’s fascinating how something so necessary can be used to show people you care. In Open Table’s case, you could argue that we created a community of people who show their love through food.
Each afternoon, hours before any burrito rolling volunteer steps foot in the church, our starter cooks fire up the ovens, break out the cookie sheets, food warmers, and rice cookers and begin preparing everything we need for the day ahead. By the time I arrive, their work is nearly done, and the last few cookies are being perfectly packaged for the night to come, and by the time they are gone our first burrito rolling volunteers start to trickle in. Our veteran volunteers get right to chopping up all the veggies as soon as they walk in, while others begin to count and separate each of the hundreds of tortillas with a tin sheet. We then get to the assembly line where we prepare, package, and sort hundreds of burritos into various coolers or bags destined for different destinations.
The summation of the hours of work each volunteer puts into our burritos each week is a labor of love for the people in our community. It is still fascinating to witness something as simple and essential as food, bringing so many people together to show others that they care. Without our volunteers, Open Table would not be able to impact the number of people it does each week. Each volunteer in our organization puts in time and effort at each step of our meal preparation process. It is their consecutive, unwavering care for the community that keeps our organization moving. From rolling cookie dough and packaging cookies, to chopping veggies and rolling burritos, I would argue the love language of Open Table and its volunteers is food.
Our weekly ritual is the perfect example of this labor of love, and I would say that each volunteer could add food to their list of love languages. While many people direct their cooking to the individuals in their lives that they love, our love is being directed toward our community and the people who need it most. Each week we put in the time and effort necessary to prepare and serve a meal, a meal that is our way of showing the love and care we have for our community and the people in it. Thank you to all of our Open Table volunteers and everyone who makes our mission possible!