Laurie Kinslow doesn’t believe people should go hungry. She attributes this to her dad.
He told her, “You don’t know what’s going on when you see someone on the street. Say ‘hi.’ Talk to them. Feed them.”
She grew up in the 1950s, as the youngest of five kids in Chico.
Her dad also told her there’s always room for one more at the table. Must be why she’s been actively involved with food banks and soup kitchens most of her life.
“When I look around today and see children who don’t have a stable family, it’s very sad,” Kinslow says.
Although she married young and was a single mom for many years, her parents were there for her. And after getting a degree in social welfare and child development, she completed an internship, but was stunned by the brokenness in families.
“I was only 21 years old,” she says. “Too young to see that and to deal with the heartache. It would have broken me or toughened me too much.”
While looking for a new career, it seemed only natural to settle in the food industry, catering and managing restaurants.
Later when she and her husband, Mike, had been married about 20 years, they decided to sell everything and leave their jobs. They bought an old RV, drove to Florida and purchased a boat. The next year and-a-half was spent cruising up the east coast.
Her father passed away during the same time period. A longing grew inside her to return to the west coast, to be closer to family. They sold the boat, left the muggy and buggy weather, and moved to San Diego. They worked their way to the San Juan Islands of Washington and stayed till 2010.
They moved back to California when Mike was offered a job with Mariposa County.
“He hated the weather in Washington, but I loved it and had some good, close friends,” she says. “It was really hard to move here. It’s too hot. But I adapted.”
Being retired in a new place, she looked for volunteer opportunities. The Manna House was a good fit. Volunteering took up more and more of her time. It wasn’t long before she became vice president. After a few years the board asked her to serve as president. It’s the kind of work she enjoys.
Kinslow also cooks meals for the homeless with Mariposa Open Arms, an outreach ministry of the local Catholic and Methodist churches.
“I can step into a new situation and not feel shy or embarrassed. I don’t think humans are good at changing, especially as we get older,” Kinslow says. “Change can be scary – we want things our way. But I’ve learned to just get in and do what needs to be done.”
She’s weathered a lot of crises in her life – experiences she repeatedly draws from. However, family is extremely important to her.
“If I didn’t have the nurturing support from my family, I wouldn’t have the strength I have now.”
Kinslow tells of a period of crisis, when she realized humans aren’t capable of saving themselves amid all the turmoil in the world. She sunk into depression for a while.
“I finally surrendered it all to God,” she says. “I think humanity is a mess, but His call on my life propels me. I don’t want to be here by myself – a little person on a little planet, spinning in a little solar system in a little galaxy. I want to know there is some justice in the world and we will all answer someday. I find comfort in knowing I’m taken care of and loved… although I can’t save the world, I’m beginning to see how His love for me overflows into others.”
Everyone who knows Kinslow sees a deep compassion for people, a devotion to her work and a genuine humility – all defining characteristics of this caring and capable woman.
“Without a spiritual center, we’d just be spinning around lost. I’m glad for my life, who I’m married to, where I am, who I serve.”
She says moving around a lot has given her a bounce-back attitude. And being raised by a mom who taught her daughters how to stand up, gave her the confidence and courage to face life’s challenges.
Yet, Kinslow doesn’t see herself as anyone special – only as a waitress at the banquet of life.
“You should have interviewed me 30 years ago when I knew everything. Now I know nothing. Just that the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west, and that’s about it.”
Debbie Croft can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.