Monday, May 04, 2009

Simple Things

Back in January I accompanied a client to a local small-town food bank and was appalled. Not at the facility, nor the all-volunteer staff. The program also serves as a referral center for all manner of social needs, for housing, for public grants, for drug- and emotional crisis intervention. It's all good.

No, I was taken aback by the level of need, and the paucity of available resources. The staff having to ration one box of macaroni and cheese for a family of four; having to distribute quite possibly intact, but certainly unsellable crushed boxes and deeply dented cans. The apparent incapacity of the clientelle, with poor hygiene, tattered clothing, bad teeth, and desperately limited understanding of how to independently manage resources to better their situation. The people who the Elite declare need to "get a job" and "pull themselves up by their bootstraps."

I am not living particularly high on the hog and must sometime carefully juggle my family resources. But, as Martina McBride sings:
And here I am in my clean white shirt
With a little money in my pocket and a nice warm home
and I'm keeping my needs covered, and can pretty regularly satisfy my modest wants. I am thankful for the advantages I have due to a whole train of good fortune over my 56-years, despite some seriously foolish moves on my part. I ain't hurtin.' So I decided to do a simple thing, one that really doesn't require that much time, or effort, or expense, on my part.

Every week when I go grocery shopping, I spend five dollars on some extra food. I try to be careful, mix 'n match stuff that can stretch. A box of pasta, jar of marinara, big can of green beans. A big jar of peanut butter, and a matching jar of jam (most food banks seem to have plenty of three-day old bread). A bag of rice, a can of beans, and one of corn. A couple of tins of tuna fish, or stew, or even Spam. The photo above is one month's collection, five dollars a week casually tossed into my shopping cart.

And, once a month, I take it to that food bank in a box. You know, it would be a whole lot easier just to drop a $20. bill on them every month. But that would also be insulating myself from the unpleasant reality, those empty shelves, those frustrated people not sure how they're going to make it to their disability check not due for three days yet. There's a reason to be doing something like this other than personal satisfaction.

There is need.

I'm no hero, here. Again, it's a simple thing I am doing, well within my means. I can burn five bucks a week on a microbrew, and may have several at that. But, if a dozen people were to do this, cutting out the middlemen and the time that the small pool of staffers would have to spend shopping, how many would we feed? If we bought a few packages of basics t-shirts, briefs, and socks a month, how many would we clothe?

Just before I sat down to blog this, I found the following quote, and I think it says it neatly and concisely, and it rings true every time I read it:

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."

- President Barack H. Obama

Labels: , , ,


At 4:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're on, I am joining the band wagon.
Take heart. A group of Dayhab consumers aided by a staff person drive to stop and shop 3x weekly and pick up canned and boxed goods S&S doesn't use.
They take them to Dayhab, sort into canned vegies, box pasta/rice etc. and store them in a big closet. Then once a week, they call the food bank, see what they need, bag it up and deliver it.
Another Dayhab group works once a week in the food kitchen. And still two more centers do meals on wheels three times a week.
So let the hoi paloi sit on their assets in their big parlors whilst "those" people help "those" people.
I am proud to be one of "those" people.

At 3:20 AM, Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

At the Springsteen concert, just before he did the song Hard Times by Stephen Foster, he had a shout out to the Regional food Bank of Northesastern New York.


Post a Comment

<< Home