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April 6, 2015

Guest Post by Janet Gurtler --- THE TRUTH ABOUT US

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Janet Gurtler’s new novel THE TRUTH ABOUT US is a love story at heart --- Jess meets Flynn, and despite the fact that their lives couldn’t be more different and her parents might never understand, she knows that they belong together. However, the setting of the book is a little less typical --- Jess works at the local soup kitchen over the summer, and many of the novel’s scenes take place in the kitchen and in the serving area.

Below, Janet talks about how her own experiences volunteering at soup kitchens influenced THE TRUTH ABOUT US.

 


 

I have volunteered a few times at soup kitchens, serving meals.  Actually, I would love to do more volunteer work like this, and need to schedule it in, because I really feel like it’s important to give back even in small ways like this.

The first time I worked at a soup kitchen was through my husband’s job. One of the guys he works with sponsors a meal every year, and he recruits volunteers from work and their families to help serve it.  My son came with us for his first time when he was about ten. He served beverages while my husband and I served meals. It was a great experience for him, because, like many of us, he’s a lucky kid and doesn’t want for any comforts in his life. It was a good way for him to realize that not everyone is as fortunate. He worked with us again a couple of years later and had a lot of questions about why people were lining up for meals and why the families and kids who were there were being served. It was a great learning experience and a way to show him how truly blessed he is.

One of the things that was an eye opener for me when I volunteered was realizing that many people who eat meals at shelters are actually working. They have jobs, but they live below poverty level and can’t afford to buy all their meals and also make their rent.  I used this fact in my book THE TRUTH ABOUT US. There are also people with addictions, and people who are going through hard times, just as there are in my book.

I had a couple of opportunities to volunteer at a shelter in Winnipeg, Manitoba with my mom, who volunteered there on a regular basis. I actually used the layout of that building (an old warehouse) as the setting for THE TRUTH ABOUT US.  Two years ago I served Christmas dinner with my mom, sister and nieces at the shelter, and I used the meal operation and the donation rooms in my novel.  While I was volunteering, I noted details that made their way into THE TRUTH ABOUT US, too.

I think one of the most important things I took from my experiences volunteering was the fact that people who use soup kitchens deserve to be treated with respect. There are so many different circumstances that lead to poverty, and each of those people had their own story.  The volunteers were the same; each had their own reason for being there and helping out. It’s tough to see people who are struggling, but also inspiring at the same time.  It showed me how important it is to treat everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of their circumstances.