The Big Issue

The best tea in London, at the Passage
Why do I get up early on Friday mornings? Am I gunning to save my soul?

What do I really LIKE getting up early on Friday monrings?

It’s a good cup of tea, really. At The Passage.
Now that two years or more have passed here in London, I can say one thing I love about London is going to the Passage.

Volunteer work is a weird sort of thing. It’s a hard thing to talk about.

Sometimes people think you are so good for doing it. They sort of coo when I tell them about my two days at the Passage. I can tell people that I volunteer at a soup kitchen and that excuses the fact that I don’t have a “real job.”

Or some people immediately leap with excuses for why they don’t do it. Or can’t. Or won’t. I don’t mind, I think. You do what you can, or what you will yourself to do.

But if I ask myself why I go, it’s really because, I like it there. I like everything about it. I like the people at the Passage: the chefs and the staff, David the volunteer coordinator. I like the other volunteers: Francesa who comes in to wash the pots and pans; Mary, the cleptomaniac, Brian the toast maker; Andrew the nervous CFO; Tom, the full-time volunteer; Nishi, the “hot-hot-hot” mute wonder; Anita and Patrick and Sr. Joan and Sr. Patricia and all the sisters whose names I get mixed up but, when I think about them, I know exactly who they are in my mind.

I love the clients too, the mumbling cranky, smiling blokes who still want their hot toast served on hot plates, who pay for their tea, just like you and me. They look so happy after they have had a shower. They remember my name and ask about politics, just like the boys down at the pub.

Is it alright, to love, selfishly, the work you do selflessly? I suppose that conundrum is the best part about it.

Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She teaches and speaks about the rhetorical impact of beautiful writing. A recent transplant to Connecticut, she calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home.