My curls were pinned in perfect place when I strode up to that open interview—if I wasn’t qualified to bring a beer to a table, at least I could look like I was. Last time I applied at a restaurant, you just gave them your application and a sweet smile—but that was when gas was on the low end of two dollars a gallon. Now you needed a resume to carry a tray, and you were better off leaving out the parts about editing manuscripts and writing crisp copy. Now your college degree was the height of irrelevance, as your competition was still working on earning theirs, and they had slung coffee just last year, and they were ten years’ hotter than you, and the better to serve your table with, my dear.
So I gave the interviewer my sweetest smile, creased on the sides with 33 years, and I handed him a paper that proved before I wrote books, I rang them up on a register. I could show him I had something that mattered. And then maybe I could pull this off, maybe I could earn a living on less than minimum wage and the liquor-lubed generosity of strangers.
We sat across the folding table from each other, and I offered in enthusiasm what I lacked in any recent, relevant experience whatsoever, and I spun my words as well as I do, and I always remembered my smile. And it must have worked for something because he tried to soft-pitch me questions that I might have a shot at satisfying, but the truth was, I didn’t. We both knew I’d never get the call.
“Did you know you can earn a thousand dollars from one video?”
“Tamara, you’re making me nervous.”
“I’m just kidding. I mean, you can, though—isn’t that crazy? You know I’d never do it. But jeez…”
“Maybe I should be an escort. You just go on a date, right? That’s not so bad.”
“What, do you think they’re going to pay just to take you out for dinner? You think they won’t expect anything?”
“I’ve applied at every coffee shop in town and haven’t heard back from a single one. I have to make money.”
“It’s not funny. You’re scaring me.”
“Yeah, well I’m scared too.”
My brothers and sisters still queued up to the table, and I’d already had my portion of the Supper, so I did like you sometimes do after a filling meal, and I just rested my body alongside my mind. I wasn’t thinking anything in particular, just drawing close to the Parent who’d fed me, a prayer held lightly open without any words. So when the words came, sure and strong, I knew they didn’t come from me. So I prayed them because what else are you going to do with words so pressed upon you?
Show me—this week—how exactly you would have me feed the hungry.
Food’s a language I love to speak because it means “I want to take care of you,” but I just form those words with banana bread for my babies and lasagna for my friends and fast food burgers for the folks who can’t swing that 49 cents. It’s just a little thing that fills me because it fills them. I’ve never given it much thought; I certainly had no reason that Sunday for it to be my great big prayer.
But it was so sudden and so strangely specific, I kept at it throughout the week, and I tried to do my part to answer my own prayer, which was never actually any such thing. I thought surely there’d be a big community feeding event that week. Clearly a friend would have a crisis any day now. I had no idea why the words came, but they were clear, and not only was I on a blind mission, I was on a tight deadline.
End of the week came and I’d kept up my part of a bargain I’d not asked for but which I felt I was being magnanimously cooperative about. I usually need to know everything in detail and in advance because this way I can operate as though I have some control over things, namely, my own life. But this was God’s deal, so I wasn’t personally invested in the situation; I was just curious when I’d be let in on the joke.
Joy called me, so excited to be getting a permanent job. We were freelancers, and that means you can make some respectable money– until the project ends and you make zero with benefits to match. The company she’d been freelancing for wanted to offer her the perfect position, but in order to move her into that role, they’d need to replace her. And they didn’t want any more freelancers—they wanted permanent copywriters. And they wanted to know who she might recommend.
She knew I needed work, so she called to ask what exactly it was that I did. Just like she thought, I did exactly what they needed. I transform others’ writing and create my own so that we can tell the best stories– because stories are how hearts connect.
We were pumped. She would recommend me, and if I got the job, I would use my relevant degree and eleven years’ experience—a resume full of the things I most love to do. We both knew I’d get the call.
It was Friday. And I would work for Feed The Children.