Miracles happened in the food pantry. It took me a while to realize this and then it took another while to accept that such a thing could happen in the basement of a small town church in Upstate New York.
I sneaked miracle stories in on the blog posts. I sneaked them on the pages of “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore”. Finally, I gave them their own pages – as much as I had the nerve for anyway, in a short book “Miracles”.
Research on miracles taught me some things.
I learned that miracles often include weeping statues, broken legs healing straight, relics, stigmata, and visions. The pantry miracles included none of those things.
Our miracles never really cured anyone. I never saw a statue weep, and no one came down with stigmata.
Instead, they showed us all how to grow and love and forgive. It was giving away the food that was the tip off for me.
As far as I can tell, the food pantry miracles were not the result of prayer.
God just showed up and brought food. Once he came disguised as a fireman. Each miracle was a complete surprise, a unique and different event. God came when the pantry shelves were bare and the lines were long.
I don’t think the miracles proved that any of the shoppers or volunteers were more faithful than anybody else in town. Frankly, I think that some of us saw the miracles as coincidences or something.
However they were seen, these events made an impact on a small number of people who saw them as they happened.
The clincher for me occurred when I finally realized and accepted a few basic things:
Carloads of food never showed up when we didn’t need it.
Boots never appeared on the shelves disguised as toothpaste in the summertime.
Nobody ever brought a handful of nails to fix the barn when the wall wasn’t falling.
Two books appeared on my desk out of the ethers: “Miracles” by Tim Stafford and “Looking for a Miracle” by Joe Nickell gave a feeling of legitimacy to my thoughts and memories.
Because of Tim Stafford, I wrote my book entitled “Miracles”. He was direct about a few things – one of them being that people should not spread “miracle gossip”. Because of his feelings about what he called “miracle gossip”, I’m compelled to relate the pantry miracle stories.
To sneak them in blog posts does not do them justice.
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Starving Seniors? Food insecure seniors? Are those terms too harsh?
Let’s ratchet them down: hungry.
Or maybe: food insecure. Yeah, that’s better. It sounds better anyway.
Call it what you want, the event is the same. It’s your grandmother or grandfather (or me…I’m certainly a grandmother) caught in a situation where there’s simply not enough food in the house. They are food insecure.
In these times, we seniors living on Social Security are finding ourselves routinely choosing between food and medicine, food and transportation.
I have two friends who daily hitch rides to the grocery store because their cars don’t work any more. Here, in the middle of this health crisis, they are in a desperate situation not of their making. Everyone is trying to shelter in place, wear face masks and gloves, practice social distancing, and find a friend to help get food.
Walking to a store is totally out for one: her hip and knee replacements won’t allow it. And, we’re not supposed to be out in public anyway.
And, how can a person buy a used car these days anyway? And, when the car gives up the ghost, how will we get to work? Yes, I know lots of seniors who are figuring out ways to bring in $$$.
The issues with seniors and food insecurity are serious because when seniors no longer have $$$ to buy the food they need for nutrition or when they can no longer buy the medicines they need, they become ill and finally end up being cared for by their children or they end up in a nursing home.
I know many stories about:
The senior in Woodstock living on mashed potatoes.
The older woman in Bearsville who ended up in a nursing home when her take-out food pantry cut her off and she couldn’t get to a grocery store.
The older man who lacks $$$ for enough food and is slowly starving.
There is food available:
If they can get to a food pantry or If they can find a pantry offering takeout
If they can sign up for SNAP (food stamps).
If they have the strength to deal with long lines and frazzled volunteers.
I spoke recently with a retired man I know:
“Richard, do you get SNAP?”
“Why, Richard? SNAP is usually easy to get. All you have to do is apply.”
“Well, I’m getting by without it. Let someone else, needier than me, get the $$$ Besides, I hear the lines are outrageous.”
“Richard, think about getting SNAP. This is a benefit you paid for. Why leave $$$ on the table?”
The barriers to SNAP for seniors are great. Seniors resist going to a pantry, soup kitchen, getting SNAP until they simply cannot resist any longer. I know the feeling. People in my age category grew up and entered adulthood feeling that if we worked hard and paid our taxes, we would end up okay. We worked all our lives with this attitude and now that we’re retired…there simply isn’t enough.
When this happens, we feel inadequate and blame ourselves. “I must have done something wrong. Here I am living hand-to-mouth. I don’t even have enough $$$ for food. What did I do wrong?”
We are a whole generation of people blaming ourselves. I feel like we’re really not totally to blame for being food insecure.
I tell myself the rules have changed. This pandemic has shifted everything. Because we’re retired, we’re not in the rules-making game anymore.
Whatever happened to the Grey Panthers?
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