Crabtree finds dignity in service

For Wayne Crabtree, a technical support manager for Business Service Company in Logan, service to others is an important part of his life. Wherever he goes he tries to find opportunities to serve others.

Wayne Crabtree has a particular fondness for doing service.

He’s worked in several soup kitchens. He also tries to find families that need help during Christmas and helps them with gifts. Giving has been a journey of sorts and he recognized the benefits early on in his life.

“Working in those soup kitchens, the experience convinced me that it’s something I want to do,” he said. “Whenever I have an opportunity to help, I try to lend a hand.”

The Logan resident is currently on the board of the Loaves and Fishes organization. Loaves and Fishes is a community dinner designed to give people a chance to eat a free meal once or twice a month, and a place to visit with others.

Crabtree’s service journey began about 43 years ago. His family was going through a difficult time. His father was out of work and the prospects of a Merry Christmas were dim.

A teacher of his sixth grade class asked if any of their families might need a little Christmas tree.

“I knew we were poor, we didn’t have a tree and my parents had recently shared with us kids that they weren’t sure we were gonna have presents that year. Being too young to understand the repercussions,” Crabtree said, “I quietly told my teacher that my family needed help.”

He said some days later there was a knock at the door of his home. His mother answered the door and for the next 10 minutes there was a rush of smiling teachers and their families emptying a tree and many presents out of a pickup truck into the little home.

“There was much laughter and my siblings and I thought all our wishes had come true,” Crabtree said. “We were giddy and flitting around trying to take it all in.”

He said his parents were very gracious and also a bit confused. When all of the visitors had said goodbye and Merry Christmas had all been shared and the door closed we kids could hardly contain ourselves.

“In the midst of this youthful joy, I noticed my dad,” Crabtree said. “He didn’t appear happy. I didn’t understand why he wasn’t happy.”

His parents wondered aloud who shared that they needed help. Crabtree wanted to share the news that he was the one who was responsible for bringing this great joy to their family.

“But my father’s face, tone and posture told me there was something about the event that was not good,” he said. “This was my first glimpse of what I later would understand to be shame. My father was humiliated.”

Crabtree said, though he was a naive sixth grader, he wasn’t dumb. It took him another 20 years to tell his father he was the reason for the Christmas charity that had brought him so much pain.

This experience had a profound impact on Crabtree. Some years ago, while on vacation to Grand Junction, Colorado he decided to volunteer at a soup kitchen run by a Catholic Church.

He said he volunteered because he wanted to do some good in the world.

“I wanted to help people less fortunate that I was,” he said. “Maybe I was doing it because I wanted to do some good in the world or maybe I was trying to prove to myself that I needed a little goodness in my life.”

The experience wasn’t quite what Crabtree expected. There were no smiles of gratitude; the homeless people they were feeding were all looking down. They made no eye contact with the people dishing the meal.

“My perfect picture was shattered by a common look shared by most of the people in line,” he said. “It was a look that said they didn’t want to be there.”

They wanted to be home with a family and a job, not getting a hand out from smiling volunteers at a soup kitchen.

“In my mind, I saw my father from years before and I recognized humiliation,” he said. “I pushed away my shyness and asked the next person in line something – I don’t remember what. What I do remember in his eyes.”

His eyes clearly asked if he was talking to him. “He seemed amazed that I was talking to him,” he said.

After a while, Crabtree felt like the interactions gave the people they were serving a little hope and dignity.

“I was finding genuine human dignity in these homeless stranger’s eyes where I hadn’t been looking for it, and in my own life where I didn’t know it was missing,” he said.

Crabtree said he struggled with how to serve, how to give to other people and not see that same humiliated look his father had had so many years ago.

“We still give, but we have adjusted how we give,” Crabtree said. “We try to do it through a means where someone determines the need, like the giving tree.”

Someone has gone through a process and then put a note on a tree for something someone needs.

“I just trust them and their process, I want to give where it is needed,” he said.  “It what’s in hearts, it is all good. You don’t stop, you just do it differently.”

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