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Walking The Path

January 14, 2010

I’ve been contemplating this post for quite awhile. There is a possibility that it will come off sounding ungrateful and that is not the intention. There is a possibility that it will come off sounding holier than thou or bitchy, that is also not my intention. 

What I hope to do in saying this aloud is to bring to light something that, I’m just guessing here, many people don’t think about. Something that I never thought about until the shoe was placed firmly on the other foot.

In our community, every once in awhile, our boy scouts and postal workers set aside a Saturday to go house to house and pick up donations for the food shelf. We’ll get paper grocery bags on our doorstep which will have the directions printed on the side: “On such and such a date, place food donations in this bag and leave them on your doorstep.” 

It’s a wonderful program and up until last year, we’ve donated at every opportunity. 

Then, when life became mildly discombobulated, I found myself as one of those people visiting the local food shelf. 

It was then that I realized how everyone had the same mind set that I had. Paper bag on the door step? Time to empty out the cupboard of all those regrettable purchases that you will never use.  You know what I’m talking about…the short run Campbell Soup flavors that, at the time of purchase, sounded mildly intriguing. The boxed dinners that have been sitting at the back of your cupboard for three years and are completely covered with dust and cupboard fuzz.

In other words, food that has been abandoned by god and unloved by humans.

Now, visualize the situation your life would be in for you to walk into your local food shelf and be able to verbalize these words: (Hopefully without breaking into tears because breaking into tears in front of strangers makes you seem kuh-razy!) “I am a mom and I can’t afford to feed my children.” 

There is this invisible wall in our society. On one side of this invisible wall are all the people that can get up every morning and go to work and smile and laugh and go forward with their day, knowing that they are secure in having a roof over their heads, clothes on their back, and food on their table. If they have kids, they are comfortable in the fact that their children, although they might complain about what they have to eat, will nonetheless have something to eat. Not having these fundamental things has never crossed their minds. 

Then, life happens. 

And they count their blessings because they have a deep freezer in their basement and plenty of food stocked up. 

And life continues to happen.

And their deep freezer gets bare. And soon their cupboards get bare. And since they are trying to hold their lives together and pay their bills and put gas in their car because they can’t afford to miss work and get fired and they don’t work on the city bus line, their money gets tapped before their grocery baskets get filled. 

It’s about the time that they start to feed their children and not themselves that they realize that something has to give. They need help. 

That’s when they pass through that invisible wall in our society. That’s when they find themselves standing in the intake room at the food shelf feeling small, tired, and like a miserable failure. If we do nothing else in this world, we should at least be able to provide the basics for our family. That’s what we have been taught to do. 

This is when the wonderful (and I mean that sincerely. They are FABULOUS) volunteers at the food shelf explain the system. This is when you learn that every kind of food has been assigned a numerical value and you can have a certain amount of points from this area and a certain amount of points from another area, et cetera. This is how you shop at a food shelf. 

You’re then led back to the warehouse like area and you push your cart along and you try to figure how you will convince your child to eat that odd soup and that fuzzy box of something that only takes ten minutes and three tablespoons of butter to make. Hopefully, you don’t have a picky eater. What if you’re the mom with the toddler who is already feeling like the lowest life form on earth and your child refuses to eat the only food you could get? How do you explain to that child, without breaking down in front of them, that mommy doesn’t have any other food to offer them? This is it. Take it or leave it. 

Any parent that has ever had a toddler would probably know that a child will never starve themselves but a “take it or leave it” attitude can be an awful thing to have to institute. Especially if you do it because you have no other choice. 

Like I said at the beginning of this post, the idea that someone would have the audacity to say “What you’re donating to the food shelf is just as important as how much you’re donating” could be met with a lot of annoyance. It seems ungrateful. It seems rude. 

Perhaps all I’m saying is the next time that you’re in the grocery store and you see a donation bin for the local food shelf, stop for just one moment. Think about that single mom with the toddler or the single dad with three kids. Put a face to the people that you’re buying that food for. After that? Go find something that you would be happy to feed your kids or your spouse or yourself. 

And then put it in the donation bin. 

Someone, somewhere, will thank you.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Tabatha Voros permalink
    January 15, 2010 1:07 pm

    Well put, well versed. Understood and taken to heart. I think you wrote an extremly good post and it was not bitchy or whatever.

  2. Pam permalink
    January 15, 2010 10:20 pm

    You should shorten it and send it in to the newspaper. I totally agree. When I fill up my bag to put on my doorstep, I put in the food that only I would eat. I throw the other stuff out or make my husband eat it!

    Good idea about the toddler food. I’ll buy some next time I’m at my favorite grocery store.

  3. January 15, 2010 10:35 pm

    Peaches. I was in a women’s shelter, with two little toddlers, and, there were peaches. Can after can of peaches. Not much else.

    As it happened, “Peaches” by Presidents of the United States of America was a popular song at the time, and, it became our bitter joke…

    “moving to the shelter, gonna eat a lot of peaches…”

    Not bitchy or rude at all. I think of this myself, having been there and since gotten out, but I have the awareness that I could end up “there” again, and I don’t think that a lot of people realize that they could one day be “there” as well. Well said.

  4. January 15, 2010 11:02 pm

    Methinks you worry too much about ‘bitchy.’ Tell anyone who calls you that to pound sand or talk to me.

    My Mom told me something years ago – People in need do NOT need garbage and they do NOT need junk. They can get all of that they want all on their own.

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