I was at the food bank on Wednesday. We were loading up 2400 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables to be delivered to all corners of our county. There was a lot of food, beautiful bananas, apples, lettuce and broccoli, tomatoes, you name it. As I was walking out to my car I saw an older woman pushing the grocery cart out to a car. Today was the day individuals could come and get food. I noticed her, because she was older and she had a warm smile. And then someone shouted out to me with a decidedly British accent, “I say, do you have any bananas you could spare?”
I walked back to my truck, which was loaded to the brim and fished around in a box that held many pounds of beautiful ripe bananas. I grabbed as many as I could hold and I walked back to the man and the woman and handed them to her. The man started talking to me about a British paper he was reading. As I stopped to listen, he reached his hand out to touch mine and he said, “God bless you all for what you are doing here.” I have never had to ask for anything in my life and then I got sick and lost everything and I don’t know what we would do without this food.”
And then he started to cry. And he didn’t just cry, he sobbed deep, heartfelt sobs of sadness and gratitude. All I could do was pat his hand.
He was a middle-aged man, with a raspy voice and he introduced his wife, the little old lady. He told me it was her 81st birthday, today. I mumbled Happy birthday to her and listened while he talked about how he lost everything and all I could think about was, “There but for the Grace of God..” and I thought it was one of the saddest things I had ever witnessed to see this sweet man and his little wife with the kind smile and gentle eyes at a food bank on her 81st birthday.
Not really knowing what to say, I told him the folks at the food bank were great people and I was so glad they were there for him and then he started crying again.. All this is going on in the parking lot and while he cried, his wife patted his hand and just kept smiling so sweetly. It seemed to me she was saying, “Oh this isn’t so bad.”
I thought about those two a lot in the next couple of days. I thought what in the world is wrong with this country that a man and his wife are at the food bank on her 81st birthday? When you are 81 you are supposed to be enjoying the sunset years, resting on the fruits of your labor for all those years before, not asking for food a food pantry. And of course, I thought about my folks, they were 83 when they died and until the day my mother died, she worried about money. She was one of the lucky ones, I suppose, she and my dad had savings. But in the last year when they were both so sick, my mother was always worried about out living her money. I knew, she knew, that I would always be there to take care of them, but I guess having seen her parents lose it in all in the depression; she never wanted to have it happen again.
As we all know, sometimes these are things we don’t have control over. Sometimes, no matter how hard we work, how much we save, how wise we invest, something unforeseen can come along and take it all away. And then we end up in line at a food bank on our 81st birthday.
Thank God for the food bank. Thank God for Wal-Mart, yes, I said Wal-Mart, who donates fresh fruit and vegetables..Bananas, by the TON. Thank God for the people who work and volunteer to get this food to the folks who need it.
And yet, while I know we are indeed blessed to have these folks who get this food out, I am still stunned and utterly unnerved by the sheer number of people who need it.
Someone told me later, they had gone to another food bank in Hastings, and the person there made them feel terrible, like they were trying to steal food out of the mouths of hungry children. What is wrong with those people and who are they to ever pass judgment on anyone. It would no more occur to me to ask the man if he could pay for the bananas, or if he was so poor, why he was even driving a car. All that matter to me was he asked me for bananas, I had then and I gave them to him
And isn’t that really what we should be doing. If we see someone who has less and we have a little bit more, we simply share. Isn’t that what all our moms taught us when we were little, to just share.
We all have something we can share. C’mon, think about it.