What I Believe – Seniors in a Food Pantry
As seniors age, the courage we experience becomes more obvious as we feed hungry people. After all, what does a senior have to lose? Courage is a necessary part of the aging personality because our platform continually shrinks.
We’re often overlooked in the homeless arena. Those looking out forhomeless people focus on an older adolescent (especially if there’s an infant involved), and families. There’s just not much energy left over for hungry people seniors and cocker spaniels.
It never occurred to me that turning away hungry people in the pantry line was something I would do. Or could do. Or even consider doing. Turning away hungry people was not an option.
I came to the pantry as a crone or harridan depending on the circumstances and a person’s attitude toward me and my attitude toward hunger. I brought already formed opinions and beliefs, many of which were with me at birth.
Some argue that people are born as blank slates. I can’t agree. For one thing, I never experienced a blank slate when it came to hungry people. I didn’t have an “aha” moment when I met my first hungry person. I didn’t examine the value of feeding hungry people in a philosophy or government class. I never, at any time, analyzed the concept of feeding the hungry.
Because I lived my opinions about hunger, and because I got up close and personal with hungry people in Mexico and Venezuela, I was comfortable with the concept of feeding hungry people.
I never even considered not feeding hungry people I the food pantry. When I saw them, I remembered moments in Mexico and Venezuela and realized hunger is an intensely personal situation accompanying malnourishment. Hunger can lead to starvation.
Hungry people needing food are voiceless. Even though it’s harder on those with mental and emotional issues, it impacts everyone spiritually.
As they distribute pantry food, volunteers reduce costs in other areas of government: healthcare, housing, education.
A long-term poor diet contributes to illness which poor people can’t afford. Healthcare costs get shuffled over to taxpayers. When forced to choose between housing and food, the hungry often opt for housing. Later, if they can’t pay the housing costs and end up homeless. This results in further tax bills.
When school children are too hungry to learn, the damage is long term. They risk becoming uneducated adults unable to qualify for employment. Our problems flow to the next generation and the future.
“Hi, Dana. Come on in and shop. How’re you doing this week?”
“Fred’s still in the hospital. He’s been diagnosed with kidney disease and he’ll be on a special diet when he comes home.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I’m so glad you sent me to Dr. Longmore. He told me exactly who to go see, what paperwork to get, everything I needed to get care for him. I hope Fred’s coming home soon.”
“Dana, I’m so happy to hear this.”
“Thank God the pantry has all these fresh fruits and vegetables. By the way, do you have any laundry soap today?”
I met Dana the first morning I worked in the pantry and she shared her adventures with me every week from that pantry day on. Of all the people going through the line in the pantry, I probably learned more about her than anyone else.
I never learned where she lived, how many children she had, where she came from or anything like that. What I learned from her was a running commentary of present tense food insecurity. She shared her daily struggle as she traveled through life trying to keep a roof over her head, clothes on her back, and food in her refrigerator.
Walking through the line weekly, she shared her life with me. I learned how she found a coat for the winter when the old one wore out and she had no money.
“Dana, your coat is beautiful!” It’s going to keep you so warm!”
“Yes, it is, isn’t it? You should have seen it when I found it. It was filthy!” I couldn’t even tell what color it was. I took it home, put it in the tub and worked on it all afternoon ’til I cleaned it up. Now look at it. It’s a perfect fit!”
I learned how she struggled to keep her car going…and then finally gave it up.
“The bus is working out real well over here. I catch it about two blocks from my apartment in Saugerties and ride it over. I wait in the hall ’til it comes back to take me home. I only have to carry my groceries about five blocks in all! I’m so lucky I found this bus. I get to ride free because I’m a senior!”
Dana was the most confirmed optimist shopper in the line. And, when Dana was in the line, I was the most confirmed optimist pantry volunteer in the place.
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