[Kaitlin Abrahams, 2018-19 participant] The tang of injera, the pungent spice of lentils, the bittersweet aroma of Ethiopian coffee—last weekend we enjoyed our community meal along with coworkers, church acquaintances, and various Shalom Project supporters. The meal had been prepared by an Ethiopian chef at the local Grape Leaf Cafe & was waiting for us to take inside in giant aluminum containers when we arrived at The Mix, an after school program who was letting us rent their gym & kitchen for the event.
Once we had carried the food inside, we draped the linen tablecloths, donated by Nathan Grieser (The Shalom Project director)’s brother-in-law over tables donated by a local Mennonite church that we had set up the night before. As rich smells began to waft from the kitchen where the food was being reheated, we folded napkins, set out silverware, and arranged centerpieces made by a former Shalomie. They were Shalom Project mugs each filled with coffee beans and an air plant. We also set up table stations for our guests to peruse, including an informational table about Ethiopia with free recipes and a kids’ table with coloring pages of the Shalomies’ faces and a scavenger hunt. Once everything was set up, we rushed to a backroom to eat, already beginning to hear to voices of guests arriving early.
During the meal I was stationed at a kids’ table where I handed crayons to toddlers and helped their older siblings pick out a free book after completing our scavenger hunt. There were more than a few kids as large gymnasium was filled with twenty-one tables, each seating at least five guests. Two of the kids to visit our table were well known to me—Ivy and Juniper, Nathan Grieser’s two and four-year-old daughters who, while sometimes shy and quiet around me and the other Shalomies, have apparently told Nathan that we are their best friends.
When the last biscuit had been dipped in its coffee and the last take-out container of leftovers had been sold, we tackled the task of cleaning the gym and washing all the dishes. Overall, our community meal was a grand success, raising over two thousand dollars for the Shalom Project.
Now, nearly a week later, we are enjoying the spring sunshine as I hear that Kansas is being inundated by rains. We had our weekly seminar in the park, where we laid on a t-shirt blanket and listened to a podcast about the danger of following one career path, suggesting instead that young people try out many different paths before they settle. This podcast reassured me as I still struggle to determine whether I should stay with the Bookmobile next year or go on to get my masters in Creative Writing. While the bittersweet transition out of the Shalom Project at the end of July is not one I am looking forward to, with prayers, discernment, and a little open-mindedness, I am hopeful that it will go smoothly. Blessings and Shalom to you all.