Today is a special day in my life and surely for the 45 deprived elder people waiting to enjoy a hot meal generously offered by my friend Paola, founder of Gestures from the Heart association.
"Gestures from the Heart" has created a special project called "A Meal from the Heart" inviting the older generation of Zgharta for a convivial meal every Saturday lunchtime. I had the chance and honor to share this meal with them.
I came here at 10am to witness the making-of and preparations of this lunch. Nawal Jeitani welcomed us into her kitchen with a big smile on her face, enjoying what she does best: Real Zghortiot food. Today's menu is rice with beans in tomato sauce as well as Kebbeh -one can't have a meal in Zgharta without Kebbeh.
How amazing it is to witness the production of Kebbeh by the skilled hands of a woman from Zgharta. In here, they speak Kebbeh, breathe Kebbeh, talk Kebbeh.
Kebbet Hummos was something new to me: Chickpeas cut in half, soft and hard borghol, corn and white flour, dried mint, salad and a special spice mix.
The guests weren't there yet, but you couldn't but feel the positive vibes flying over the room. Another plate was on the menu: Moujaddara bi Loubieh: Small Loubieh, spicy onions with olive oil, borghol and salt.
It was 11 and the room was already busy. Lunch was scheduled to be served at 12. Six tables each seated 8 in a single room of a small house. Colored Chinese balls added a touch of light to the room while a light wind entered from the open windows. One was sleeping, the other was praying... And then Paola arrived. I had tears in my eyes!
Paola doesn't only offer them lunch but makes sure they feel part of it all, she is the family they don't have. She kisses one, asks about the other while touring around the tables with a huge smile on her face.
Laurice was waiting; Laurice is an old lady from down the hill but can't come up by herself. Paola makes sure to pick her up from home every Saturday. Less than 50 meters, which we walked side by side while she tells me about Zghara and Ehden, the villages of her childhood. These interactions with the elders was like a vitamin shot to me.
Praising God, Saint Mary and remembering our dead, 10 minutes were dedicated to praying. Here is where things became fresher, smiles and chit chat, friends were happy to meet again.
And lunch service started. Serving bowls were filled back in the kitchen while we toured around the tables to pour hot food inside the plates. A first round, a second then the salad and raw Kebbeh followed. I was flying, an unmatched feeling, joy and peace took over my blood. Seeing them enjoy their time and eating with appetite put a smile on my face. After that was dessert time as they started preparing to leave. Some get empty boxes from Ruth full of food for the week.
This is a call for action, support is needed for this small organization that works on a very limited budget to help people in need. It's not about the money, but more about the personal contact making those deprived people feel part of a community and loved... Paola manages to do so, helped by her family and friends. I wish I could join every Saturday.