Friday, January 20, 2012
To give, yet be given to.
I went to work at a food pantry last week with my mother and aunt. I was borrowing her car for the day and I really didn't feel like driving back and forth, so I decided to just tag along with them. They had been volunteering for several months and even though I had been asked to go, I had just never gone until that day. As we pulled up to the place, I was struck by how the neighborhood had changed. I used to walk up and down those streets long ago. My grandmother had lived just around the corner. Now, most of the big apartment buildings and stores that had once lined the streets were gone. The remaining ones were either boarded up or in desperate need of repair.It was a very eerie feeling, seeing how the neighborhood had become a ghost town. The food pantry itself was inside a small store front with boxes of food lining the walls. There was hardly enough room for the 6 volunteers(including myself) that were there that day, let alone all the people that had started to line up outside. I was quickly given a task to do. There were lots of boxes that needed to be moved, opened and arranged to make things easier for when the clients were let in. They came in with their bags and carts, anxious to see what was being offered. That day there was, chicken, potatoes, oranges, greens and canned black eyed peas. There were also a choice of salad, carrots, frozen vegetables, jelly, boxed mac and cheese, summer sausage, sweet and sour sauce, cereal, oatmeal, and grits. The lines moved quickly as the people filed in. Some were excited to have such choices, some only wanted cereal and meat. Grape Jelly was the most popular item that day.( i was told it always was a hot item)However, we had to beg some people to take a bag of carrots or some vegetables. There were some many young moms that wouldn't accept them because they didn't know how to prepare them for their families. I was almost moved to tears as I looked into the faces of these people. All they wanted was food. Something so basic and taken for granted by so many. I thought about all the waste that goes on in this country everyday and it made me sad. With each item that I put into those bags, I felt something stir inside of me. With each, "thank you" and "God bless you" I received that day, I was being changed. I realized that as I was giving them food to nourish their bodies, I too was being nourished in return. My spirit was being fed in a way that must have been hungry for a long time. As the lines dwindled down, and the last clients came and went, I was thankful that I had come with my mom that day. She had always raised us to help others and has always been such a wonderful example of a person who gives to others. She herself, now retired and on a fixed income, fixes food for the homeless every week rain or shine. I asked her once, why she went to the food pantry to volunteer sometimes when she was tired and maybe didn't feel that great. I know now. I know it because, I have started volunteering every week at a food pantry right around my house and it is addicting. It is an amazing thing when you can be of service to others.I usually, would have stayed indoors on a cold, snowy day like this. But, I was eager to go and "get fed". The pantry served over 220 people today. They came in cars, on buses and on foot. Some with canes and crutches. They waited patiently until their numbers were called to get their bags of food that were filled with a variety of healthy foods. Some donated sweets from a neighborhood store was available as a treat for them as they left for their allowable 1 day a month visit to the pantry. I came home spirit filled and excited to share my experiences with my husband. He promises to accompany me one day. I know it will touch him as it has touched me. I remember early on in our marriage receiving food from places like this. He was only working temp or part-time jobs and I was home caring for our 2 small children. Money was tight, but we never went hungry. Neighbors and family helped us out until my husband got a good job. A lot had changed since those early days and I feel blessed to be able give back now. If you have a chance this year, find a food pantry and volunteer. It will do wonders for you. If you can't find a food pantry, find somewhere, to do something, for someone. I believe it is what God put us on this earth to do. Plus, when you fill up on "spirit calories", you can keep going back as many times as you want without fear of an expanding waistline. Peace.