This post was authored by Tivnu Gap Year participant Henry Belman. Henry is from Menlo Park, CA (by way of Brooklyn, NY) and he interns at Sisters of the Road, Urban Gleaners, and Tivnu Construction.
For the past 5 months, I have worked at Sisters of the Road Cafe, a cafe for low income individuals. Explained on their website, Sisters is: “a nonprofit cafe … working to create systemic change that will end poverty and homelessness by providing nourishing meals in a safe, dignified space.” Over time, I feel I have made a strong connection with the community and staff there.
I grew up in New York City and Hong Kong, two places that have large homeless and houseless communities so I have had plenty of interactions with people in similar conditions to the people at Sisters. So most of my anxieties of working there had more to do with how well I would do my job. I had never had a job like this one (or at all really) so I did feel the pressures that come with working. Fortunately, I found a job I am good at and enjoy: serving drinks.
Before I go on, I should describe the different jobs there. There is Waitstaff, which serves the food, Back Busing and Front Busing in which we have to bus dishes, Coffee Station where we pour coffee and give out sugar and creamers (max 8:2), Steam Table, where we prepare the food, and Drinks, where we prepare and serve drinks (juice, coffee and iced tea) and give the order to the kitchen.
I personally find Drinks less stressful (and easier for me) than Steam Table, lighter loads than Waitstaff, less likely to have coffee spilled on me than Coffee Station and goes by much quicker than busing. Busing is my other main gig. The problem is that it feels like time stops whenever I bus. With drinks, however, there is an order that I just like. The pace is fast but not too fast and when there is a lull in customers, I tend to stack cups, much to the amusement of some of the staff. When I serve people their drinks, I almost always tell them to “enjoy” as I want to make their time there as pleasant as possible. I think it is my politeness that has made me popular there.
It feels good to be appreciated and I definitely feel appreciated while working at Sisters of The Road Cafe. It is a place where I feel welcome and I always hope to bring that same energy to work. Sure, there is some chaos there most days but the community by and large is one of love, healing and peace and the staff are very adept at handling all problems thrown their way. Sometimes, however, I do need a break, so I spend my lunch time in the back room. This means I often end up sitting in on the “roadies” meetings, and am included in their conversations. It was at one of these meetings that I found out that I am well liked by the staff and the customers. This made me feel happy, and a bit proud of myself as it feels really good to be successful and appreciated for what you do.
Of course, the job is hard as the aforementioned violence sometimes happens, and everyone is often in a rush. Orders tend to pile up and looking for the numbers that signify whose order is whose is often a challenge. While I find that drinks is my favorite job, it does sometimes get stressful. However, there is a lot I love about working at Sisters. I have had great interactions with the community and staff and genuinely feel like I am making a difference. The love in that place is strong enough for me to look forward to going there every Tuesday and Wednesday. The staff people are great and so are the community members. The way Sisters is run in my opinion the way society should be run, with an emphasis on healing and serving and community, and as a non-profit.
Overall, working at Sisters is a unique experience that may not be for everyone, but is definitely worthwhile.