So far this Fall, I have spent five full days working at a local food pantry, Tabitha’s Way. I thought I was only going to work three full days. I thought that because my employer, Pearson, provides up to three community service volunteer days each year. (I love that the company I work for does that!) So I thought I would use those days, provide service and then be done.
Once I started working, I was seeing things that I would not have seen any other way.
I saw many people and local businesses provide a massive amount of support to the pantry. This support did not just consist of one-off donations as some of the business provide food on an almost daily basis.
I saw dozens of volunteers come in to help prepare food to be given to those in need and to also hand out the food to those who show up at designated pick up times.
I also saw what goes on behind the scenes. There is a lot of logistical work that goes into running a food pantry. Food has to be gathered, sorted, checked for freshness, and package for distribution.
The most significant thing I have seen during my time at Tabitha’s Way is a lot of people who simply need some help with basic needs, like food.
It is my strong belief that not a single person on this planet needs to go hungry. We have enough food for everyone to eat. I believe it is up to all of us to make sure that happens.
Today’s food line was a little harder than the others. Not only were we short volunteers, we had two and needed ten, but the needs was great, the line was long and there were a few very eye opening and unfortunate circumstances.
The first was when I was loading some boxes of food into the van of someone through their side door. I was trying to move quickly as there was a long line of cars waiting. I noticed that when I put the boxes down that they were landing softly.
That was unusual and caused me to pay a bit more attention. When I did, I noticed that I was placing the boxes on a makeshift bed in the back of the van.
I paused for a minute and flashed back to a minute earlier when I asked the gentleman if he would like one of our turkey dinner baskets. His reply was that he had no way to cook the turkey.
It didn’t register when he said that, but when I saw the bedding, and some other items that looked like someone who might have been on a camping trip, I figured out that this gentleman was living out of his car. While I find that fun when I am on long road trips, I am certain it is not fun as a way of life.
Something else I saw toward the end of my shift was a woman in her late 20s or early 30s walk up to the car line to let us know she was here to get some food. One big difference was that she did not even have a car. She had a small back pack and that was it.
She said that she would like to get what she can carry with her. She told us she had recently become homeless. She didn’t want to take anything with her that she may not be able to use.
I spoke with her a bit and she let me know that she has children and she recently sent them to live with their aunt. All of the team went into action to find the right kind of ready-to-eat and portable food items that we could give her.
I remembered seeing that we had some winter hats last week, so I told her I was going to go inside and grab her something. I quickly found the knit hats and grabbed one along with a scarf and put it into a grocery bag. I looked for a pair of gloves and could not find any.
I grabbed some toothpaste, a toothbrush, and some other personal products for her and put them in the bag as well.
It felt so inadequate.
I looked on the shelves, but couldn’t find anything else that would help a single woman living on the streets.
I then bumped into the table in the middle of the room and felt my wallet hit against my backside. I think that may have been a suggestion from above. So I took out my wallet and emptied my whopping total of $35 and wrapped it in the cap in the bag. It still felt inadequate, but it was certainly better than nothing.
I went back outside and handed the lady the bag and let her know I put a hat and some other things in there for her. I made sure she was able to pack all of the portable foods she could take and that she was able to manage carrying them.
She was very grateful, looked me in eyes and said, “Thank you.”
As she walked away and crossed the street to go who-knows-where, I said a prayer for her that she would be safe, warm and be able to come out of her current circumstances, be with her children, and be happy with them.
I wiped a few tears away from my eyes, looked at the cars that had pulled in while we were helping her, and went right back to work.
I am now sitting in my warm home, at my desk, and can hear my office fireplace humming. I feel a different level of gratitude today.
I live in a nice house. I have all the clothes I need. I have all the food I need to eat. I have a bed and a comfy, cozy blanket I will sleep with tonight.
I am blessed in many ways.
I have a great job with a socially aware company – Pearson. I have a great family. I need for NOTHING.
I imagine if you are reading this on your cell phone, tablet, laptop or computer, you are probably in similar circumstances as I am. You probably have food and sleep security. You probably have ample clean clothes to wear. You probably have a car too.
No one needs to go without food, clothing and shelter.
What can we do about it?
We can serve.
We can donate food, clothing and other items.
We can give generously.
I am past my three days of company-supported volunteering days. I have completed 5 and have signed up for 4 more in the month of December. Can I kindly ask you to consider helping those around you?
And if for some reason, you are looking to donate some funds, I would love to recommend Tabitha’s Way to you.