posted on October 13, 2015 7:47
This story is the second part of a two part series originally posted by Snak Stash and is reposted with permission. Click here to read the first story.
Embrace Hunger Relief Week and Hunger Action Month have wrapped up. Donation barrels have been emptied and items boxed up, monetary donations tallied and sent, and skids of product have been added to the Central PA Food Bank’s roster. Of course, the whirlwind of activity hasn’t died down here at Dutch Valley Foods, so my attention was diverted from writing this blog for longer than I would have liked. At first, I thought it might be pointless to write a belated follow-up to my last blog about Hunger Relief. But really, this issue doesn’t have a “best time” or a “best forum.” People struggle with hunger every single day, year round, year after year. So I suppose now is as good a time as any to share a very personal story with you – my own experience as a recipient of aid from a food pantry.
About fifteen years ago, I was a single mom struggling to make ends meet on my own, caring for my young son and living three thousand miles away from my family. I had a full time job, but made a fairly low wage, so providing shelter, utilities and food was often a balancing act that resulted in shortfalls which I tried to spread around so that I could keep things going until the next payday. When food was in short supply and I had no money for groceries, I often went without eating so that I could feed my son. But I remember, so clearly, the day that even that wasn’t enough to make things work. My cupboard was bare. I mean REALLY bare. Not like now, when I could probably throw together a hodgepodge of items, enough to make several meals, even on my worst day. No – it was empty. I remember crying at work because I didn’t know how I was going to feed my son that evening. I was afraid and humiliated, feeling as if I had failed the child I loved so much. Even now, as I think about that time, I get very emotional. Anyway, I worked at a resource center at the time, and recalled seeing a food pantry brochure. I waited until no one was looking and copied down the address and hours of operation.
I didn’t want to go to the food pantry for help. In retrospect, I had so many misconceptions about what the experience would be like and what going there for services would say about me. But the prospect of having nothing to offer my son for dinner propelled me into the car during my lunch break to make the trek across town. I sat in the parking lot for a little while, working up the courage to go in. How would the people there react to me? Would they think I was a bad mom? I even wondered if somehow seeking aid would cause social services to take my son away from me, saying I wasn’t able to provide for him. Lacking any other option, I got out of the car and walked to the door. I was prepared for the worst, and completely unprepared for what I actually found.
When I walked in the door, I must have looked like I expected to be ambushed or something, because an elderly lady who was packing a box looked up and then rushed over to me. I started to cry and apologize, my words tumbling out in a torrent of fear and embarrassment. This dear lady put her arms around me and told me that everything was going to be okay, that she was glad I came and glad that they could help me. She helped me fill out a simple form, and then walked me around, helping me to select some nutritious foods that would sustain my son and me until I could receive my next pay check. She made me feel respected and cared for in a moment when I had been feeling very alone and ashamed. In my emotional state, I neglected to ask her name, but her face is etched indelibly in my memory, as are the lessons she taught me that day. What I learned was that life is full of ups and downs, but there really are people who care and who will reach out with their hands and hearts to help another human being in times of trouble. I also learned that sometimes we have to overcome our own internal struggles in order to allow people to help us. That was really hard for me.
Today, I celebrate the efforts of people who give. I also hold those who have need very close in my heart. Giving has become a very important part of my life – in large part due to my experience at the food pantry what seems like so long ago. But, more than just the physical part of giving, I treasure the part of giving that reminds the recipient that he or she is, indeed, most worthy to receive.