Valentine's Day Napkins

Valentine’s StreetCorner Gourmet’s on the Street – What We Absorb

Valentine's Day Napkins

Towel Art Created for the Guests at our Valentine’s Picnic

One of our YES! mantras that most of us know from personal experience is:

“The amount of Good that any one of us can do is directly proportionate to the amount of inconvenience that we’re willing to absorb”.

One new-ish YES!Solutions volunteer, a First-Grade teacher in a NYC public school in Queens, invited her 29 six-year-olds to listen to a story about The StreetCorner Gourmets, as told by a little guy many of us have known for most of his young life.  Adham Mussa, whose Daddy, Abdul, is our Valentines Winter Picnic’s all-day pushcart chef, proudly and excitedly told his classmates, last week, about  “Mary’s party on the street” where he has helped his Dad since he was barely a year old.

In the early days of his life, Adham, born in Egypt on the same day that his Dad became a U.S. citizen, kept a few of us running to keep him safe on the street while Daddy stood in frigid cold and cooked and served and smiled and charmed everyone by his captivating enthusiasm and kindness.  Little Adham took to the street naturally, danced and ran and jumped, hid from view in the old “I See You” game with anyone who played-back.  Sometimes, he was tossed unbelievably high into the air by his Daddy, taking a momentary break from the grille.  Laughing and cavorting, the duo astounded us all.  They were acrobats and dancers and chefs in equal measure.  Their unexpected antics drew as many passersby and cheers as Abdul’s aromatic meal did.

Now, almost 5 years later, Daddy still produces the tantalizingly delicious StreetCorner Gourmets Valentines hot picnic meal, with a little less acrobatic entertainment — but his (now) 2 little sons and their 2-year old sister continue to charm all of us, all ages.

Adham always has been fascinated by our signature Valentines Eggs, our “edible valentines”.  He loves the idea that we cook and color and decorate eggs and write messages on them just to make people who are hungry and cold feel better and laugh a little, and then eat until they’re not hungry any more.  Now that he’s become a master of crayons and markers and exotic designs, himself, he thought it might be fun for his class to make a batch of Valentines Eggs for the picnic.  His gracious teacher co-presented with him to introduce the “social awareness and communication” project.  She offered to cook the eggs herself and bring them to class on Friday, the day before our picnic.  Adham and she invited me to come to class Friday and help.  I did.

Twenty-three of the twenty-nine First-Graders (six down with seasonal respiratory “stuff”) diligently worked on the 9 dozen eggs that their teacher had cooked and colored in basic pink while the rest of them were enjoying their unanticipated Snow Day the day before.  In the first moments of decorating, a half dozen eggs were crushed by earnest little hands that squeezed them a little too hard, or pressed too hard with a crayon while lettering their sweet messages.  Wiping their tears, I offered to eat these myself — but had a little competition from Adham.  Most of the little artists repeatedly called me over to ask how to spell a word, or to show me the ice cream pizza they had drawn on their eggs to make someone laugh, or to proudly read me an amazingly lengthy, thoughtful sentence that somehow fit on an egg, in scrunched baby lettering, and sounded a bit like group therapy.  “Don’t be sad”, and “Try to smile”, and “Be happy; please don’t be poor”.

When all the pink eggs had been “messaged”, 23 fervent little artists wanted to do more, so I invited them to decorate the sheet of paper towel that each had used as a desk-protector.  They agreed that their “work mats” could be recycled as “egg napkins” which Adham would give to our guests on the street .  He stipulated “. . . but only AFTER everyone sees them”.

Please do.  SEE, here.  ENJOY innocent, thoughtful, caring kiddie messages from a bunch of beautiful little NYC children from a school that inspires and challenges  children from 292 ethnicities, in 10 grades from pre-K to 8, and from their lovely teacher.

LOVE, TOO, from my heart to all of you who enable the StreetCorner Gourmets and YES!Solutions to bring surprise moments of companionship, relief, and caring to thousands of hungry (tummy- AND soul-hungry) New Yorkers all year long.


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