Pay It Forward Merit Badge, Expert Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 5,602 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—7,898 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life 

For this week’s Farm Kitchen/Pay it Forward Expert Level Merit Badge, I was pretty thrilled. I mean, level three? Expert? Moi? Luckily I’m like the most humble girl I know, so I didn’t let it go to my head, and got to work.

I went to my local food bank and soup kitchen (you remember the one? I brought them all my bounty from earning the Intermediate Level badge). I grabbed the nearest apron and told the cook I was ready for some good ol’ volunteering. Time to give back after yesterday’s splurge.

“Put me to work. I’ll do anything. Plate food, scrape dishes, play the piano … you name it, I’m your girl.” I beamed.

Then he nearly broke my heart by telling me I kind of had to sign up in advance for this volunteering stuff, and maybe in a few days or so they’d give me a call when they had an opening.


My hopes were dashed. I was all set to do good deeds and now this snag in my plans?




It was the wail that seemed to do the trick. Cook waved his magic spatula and suddenly there was space for me in the kitchen. I wiped my eyes on my borrowed apron (Note: make cuter aprons for the volunteers. Can you say polyester in the shade of pea soup?) and rolled up my sleeves.

I wasn’t the only volunteer, but I was the only first-timer, so I tried to blend in and look efficient. This was easier said than done because this place could really hustle and bustle. I mean, we’re talking moving and shaking everything and everyone working together like a well-oiled machine. I needed to find my place. But how?

Turns out I had a hidden gift in the plating department. You know what they say in all those cooking shows: presentation, presentation, presentation. I lovingly arranged dozens of cake plates and artfully plated the food. I had a special knack for making the colors pop, if I do say so myself. For instance: A shake of sesame seeds on the chicken and a dollop of butter just off center of the rolls REALLY made the whole ensemble come together.

Can food be an ensemble? I think, yes.

Anyway, Cook had to stop me before I started carving roses out of the radishes so I moved onto clearing the tables. This was where the real fun started: I got to visit. You all know how much I love visiting people, right? Visiting means talking, and I love myself a good long talk. I got to meet the most interesting people, farmgirls! And they all totally loved my napkin folding, said it really brought some thing different to the tables. I beamed again (it was a beaming kind of day).

Cook stopped me before I started munching on the cake and telling my life story to my new friends, and moved me onto dish washing. I could tell they really needed my expertise in nearly all areas, so I was pleased. And humble, of course.

I ended my day of volunteering with lots of suds in my hair and dish-pan hands, several new friends, and the desire to come back. Cook’s eyes smiled, which I totally took to mean he was thrilled.

I beamed.



  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    The older I become, the more fervent I believe in paying it forward somehow. There are countless ways to accomplish this but truly we all can lean outward and pull somebody along. Someone who needs a hand, someone who believes in them, someone who can help traverse the muddy waters a bit easier. We all do this for our children without thinking another minute, but what about children and young adults who never have had someone in their corner? This is the challenge I find most difficult. It takes getting out of our comfort zone and risking because there are never any guarantees that what you do makes any difference. But like all giving of the self, once you engage, it gets more interesting and rewarding when you see that what you do in small ways, can make a difference in big ways.

  2. Karlyne says:

    You rock, MBA Jane!

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