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I swear I caught a glimpse of heaven’s love when I visited FAR’s soup kitchen in third Masiv last Thursday. There, I witnessed something unlike anything I had ever seen before: love and warmth in its most pure, beautiful and unbiased form. This love was displayed as a strong and powerful force flowing through the smiles and eyes and voices of each one of the FAR staff members working at the soup kitchen.
This love was evident in the gratitude that radiated from the soup kitchen beneficiaries, those upon whom hard times had fallen most cruel. After finishing their meals of delicious bread, lentils and kampot each recipient remained at the kitchen to chat, to laugh or to tell a story. One wonderful woman even sang two chillingly beautiful songs to honor my visit while another new friend challenged me to an amicable arm wrestling match.
From the moment I stepped into the soup kitchen that afternoon this love and energy was directed toward me. It mattered little that I, despite being an Armenian- American, could hardly speak Hayeren. Nobody seemed to care that I was from the other side of the world, and that I knew little of the struggles of those living in the 3rd Masiv. What mattered most, they told me, was that I was interested in them, that I cared, and that I had chosen to act.
It mattered to them that I wanted to not only come see the soup kitchen but to also serve food, wash dishes, and smile and talk and laugh. Though I’d entered a stranger the staff and beneficiaries treated me like a son. Despite being a normally laid back guy, I was quickly overcome by surprise and gratitude as I humbly accepted a far more rich and potent love than anything I had ever felt or displayed.
Each one of us has our own struggles, which we innately regard as paramount to the struggles of others. My visit to the soup kitchen, along with many other experiences I’ve had during my stay in Hayastan, has solidified my belief that each of us is presented with a choice of how to live our lives. For many of us this means living each day prioritizing our own gratification. Perhaps, however, there are actually a few of us who rise to the formidable challenge of putting aside our personal desires to live for something far greater.
I truly believe – just as all of us here at Ayo! do – that it is only through cohesive effort and personal sacrifice of the mundane that our vision of monumental social change can be achieved in Armenia. My prayer is that I, too, may someday demonstrate the same powerful love as those unassuming men and women with whom I spent a few remarkable mornings at a soup kitchen just outside Yerevan.