Read Stories | Watch Videos

From Toll Booth to Karma Kitchen!

One of the understated hallmarks of Karma Kitchen is the opening volunteer circle.  We sit in silence for a few minutes, do a circle of introduction and stories, go through the menu and the entire process, split into various roles, and do micro-orientations for new folks.  All in an hour.  Because everyone is a volunteer, there are no walls (ie. egos) and its amazing how much gets synched up in that one hour ... without even realizing it!

I've volunteered once before at Karma Kitchen.  Last Sunday was my second time.

In the opening circle, people shared great stories.  Then, we got to Jane.  "Hi, my name is Jane.  I came to Karma Kitchen, maybe three years ago, in the older location in South Berkeley.   I came as a guest, but then never got around to volunteering.  Then, last Friday night, I was crossing the Dumbarton bridge and the toll booth attendant hands me a Smile Card and says to me that the car into front of me had paid for my toll and I may like to pay-it-forward.  I was so stunned, I didn't even know what to do.  But then, I realized where I had seen those Smile Cards before -- Karma Kitchen!  So I logged on and signed up, and here I am."

It's amazing how kindness ripples, and sometime comes full circle.  Another volunteer goes next.  And I followed.

Suddenly, I realized that I was on Dumbarton last Friday night.  Could it be?  I turn to Jane and ask, "Was that Friday night, around 7:30PM, when you were tagged with a Smile Card, by any chance?"  Jane takes a moment, as everyone inches forward to speculate the obvious.  "YES!"  No way.  The young woman next to me put her palms on her all-of-a-sudden-red cheeks.  After exchanging a few details, it is clear: my wife and I had paid toll for the car behind us, which was indeed Jane's car!

Wow.  [silence] One magnificent stroke of serendipity like that can really wake you up sometimes.

Orientation hour soon ended, guests started coming in at 11AM, and one couldn't help but imagine the invisible strands of connection that may ripple out of this Karma Kitchen day.

--MD on Sep 27, 2010

Share Your Own Story

If you have a Karma Kitchen story to share, please email us. We'd love to hear it, and spread the inspiration!