Volunteer Appreciation Dinner at our church is always a fun evening. The church hall is decorated with twinkling lights, flowers on every table, and gift bags with bright bows await the drawing of the winning tickets. Volunteers are true guests of honor.
Dinner was served at seven. We arrived early, which my husband never does, so I knew this was an important occasion. Our table of nine consisted of fellow Eucharistic ministers, ushers, a fish fry volunteer and me. When one woman asked what I did to volunteer at the church, I sheepishly told her, “Nothing.”
“Nothing?” she asked. “You’re not a volunteer?”
“No but the invitation said, ‘and guest’ so I am guesting.”
I was saved by the chief of the volunteer’s voice over her microphone, announcing the plan for the evening. “Appetizers will be served first. Please DO NOT take your salad yet. Wait for dinner.”
The tables began to empty and people returned with plates piled high with crab dip, tortilla chips and fresh fruit. One rebel at our table jumped in line early and returned with not only appetizers, but the forbidden salad. She sat right next to me.
“Didn’t you hear the rules?” One woman from across the table asked. “NO SALAD until dinner.”
“It’s almost dinner time anyway. I saved a trip,” She defended herself and popped a nacho into her mouth.
The others at our table looked at each other as if she’d committed a grave sin.
“But she said NO SALAD until dinner,” another volunteer persisted.
At that moment I had visions of St. Katharine’s of Sienna’s cafeteria in third grade. Sister Mary Robert would be speeding down the hall to the cafeteria any minute now, with a ruler in hand.
I warned her, “Mother Superior is going to call you to her office any minute now. She doesn’t like people who break the rules.” Apparently my Catholic fear runs deep because I was looking around the church hall for Sister Mary Robert to appear.
“This salad is really tasty,” commented the sinner next to me.
“You not only took it, you’re eating it???” asked another woman, who was appalled by this reckless behavior.
Twenty minutes later, our table proceeded to the buffet for our appetizers.
The Caesar salads were lined up in Styrofoam bowls tempting us. I remembered the protocol. DO NOT take the salads yet.
I looked at Elizabeth and Betty and they were debating if they should be good Catholic girls or just be rebels and eat the damn salad. They were starving.
I am not proud to admit that at that point, I grabbed a salad bowl and hid it under my appetizer plate. I bragged to the others, “Look at this. They’ll never know.” They followed my lead. I am probably going to go to hell for being disobedient. Elizabeth and Betty followed suit. We made our way back through the serpentine tables with a mask of guilt all over our faces.
When we sat in our seats, three of us and the original rebel, were scolded. “You actually took the salad? She said NO SALAD until dinner.”
We were all over fifty and worried that we’d be punished for taking the forbidden salad. After hundreds of hours of volunteering, I think God would understand. Salad shame can run very deep.
When it came time to leave, my husband was chatting with another volunteer too long. I patted him on his butt to make him move along. He kept chatting and I wanted to get home. I patted his butt again. Then I looked across the room, only to see my husband waving at me to hurry up.
Who was the man in front of me whose butt I’d been patting? He turned and I gushed, “I am so sorry! I thought you were my husband.”
“Well it’s nice you still do that at your age,” said the DEACON!”
The only thing I could think to say was, “Do you think we need to get married now?”
He laughed and kissed my cheek.
Not only did I act reckless with the forbidden salad, I patted the deacon’s butt with no shame.
I headed straight to the confessional box to beg for forgiveness. Let’s not mention this to Sister Mary Robert.