by Vicky Aldana
Vicky Aldana is a professionally certified coach (PCC) and mentor based in the Los Angeles area. She lives close to nature, where she spends most of her time outdoors, hiking and practicing yoga. When she is not outside, she is creating her podcast, The Voices of Wisdom Project.
I’ve had the opportunity to participate in Free Food’s events a few times, both in New York and California, over the last few years. The first time was during the pandemic in Harlem and most recently, I supported the Free Food event in Ukiah, California.
Each time I participate, I am greeted by a group of smiling people. In the room, there is an ambiance of liveliness and collaboration. As stations form for each part of the burrito-making assembly line, it’s easy to see that every person there is taking immense joy in their task. I personally love scooping the cheese and salsa, typically the final ingredients to go into the burritos. The folks wrapping the burritos even have a specific way to wrap the tin foil so that the burrito is easily opened by the person who will eventually eat it.
Once the burritos have been made, the next part is to deliver the burritos, which I think is a lot of fun. When we arrive at Building Bridges, the shelter in Ukiah, I make sure to pass out the burritos one at a time. When I give someone a burrito, we’re exchanging a moment of connection. Most times, I’m greeted with a sincere, “Thank you.” In return, we’re asked to say “thank you” as well, rather than “you’re welcome.” The reason for this, which I find to be deeply true, is that being able to be of service is the gift itself. I am doing this as much for myself, from my overflow, as I am for others; it is a continuation of an energy cycle.
One particularly touching moment in Ukiah was one woman who asked if she could save a burrito for her nearby bedmate, who was asleep. I remember being flooded with compassion because it reminded me that connection is innate. When we receive something good, we feel compelled to share it. Another reminder that this experience is receiving as well as giving.
From the outside, it could seem like putting together meals is simply a good deed — an event that good people do with their extra time. But for me, I experience it as an act of self-serving generosity. What I’ve learned from working with Free Food is that when we fill up so much on life, which I think is a natural aim — to experience life — it’s just as important to keep attention on pouring out that good cultivated energy in an act of circulating love.