Somehow, when I’m in a food pantry, I feel the presence of Mother Mary. She greets us and invites us to know her better. She is also ready to sit with us on our spiritual and physical journeys.
People go to Mary with issues related to children and with healing of all kinds. They go to Mary for forgiveness, compassion, and mercy. That puts her square in the middle of the food pantry line.
Mary has no doctrine. Nor does she have a dogma. Mary’s story shows us she knows intimately about hunger, suffering, sorrow, and death.
Mary’s prayers count.
Mary waits for us to reach out to her. Mary has been waiting for us long before we became aware of her.
Mary accepts us, whatever our beliefs. She doesn’t care whether we follow an established religion or even no religion. She accepts us as we come to her. Mary belongs to all faiths, all religions, all paths, and all people.
She protects, heals, and guides us all. She is there with us in the pantry line. She offers comfort in troubled times. Mary teaches that we all have value.
Sensing her presence, I feel she is showing us how to turn our pain into life lessons to help us cope with and enjoy life.
If we listen, Mary protects us when danger lies ahead.
I write these things because I somehow know that they are real. I know this to my bones. I’m not sure how this knowing came about. And, truthfully, I quit asking HOW a long time ago.
Working in a food pantry brought up questions that were dormant throughout my life. I pondered, worried, and searched for answers for years. I’ve finally decided that there are some things I don’t have the answers for yet.
And, so what. Do I have to know the answers to everything? After all, I’m only human. And, an old human at that.
All I can do is say “thank you” to Mary for being here for us.
Thank you Mary for holding me up in the food pantry when the numbers were too high and getting higher every week.
Thank you for being there with us all in that line.
Thanks for reading this article. I am not here to challenge or change your beliefs about feeding the hungry or about any other thing, as far as that goes. I am not here to change your story. Instead, I am here as a conduit for your own healing.
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Families in communities everywhere make their way to a food pantry weekly. ly. And, grandmothers are an essential part of this mix, playing their part in different ways.
Grandmothers care for the grandchildren while their parents work 2 and 3 jobs each.
Because the crowded conditions in many pantries are stressful for some children, grandmothers care for the grandchildren while the mothers shop at a food pantry.
Shopping at a food pantry can take hours depending on the crowds and the lines. People don’t just “drop in” at a food pantry with a shopping list.
One family with 5 children attends the pantry weekly. Grandmother sits in the car and watches the children and Buffy the dog while mother shops. Somehow, grandmother manages to entertain the children as they all wait in the car. The mother stands in the line, first in the the parking lot and later in the building hallway, while she waits her turn to shop in the pantry for 3-4 minutes.
Grandmothers take their grandchildren shopping at a pantry when the parents work. One grandmother I know takes her grandson with her weekly. Little David is always delighted to choose an apple as a treat on each pantry visit.
Children in our country today shop in the pantry weekly with their mothers or grandmothers. Shopping with the family to put food on the table is an outing practiced weekly the world over.
Listening and chatting with these children over the years I’ve observed something: Many of these children have never been in a large grocery store or super market. A food pantry has a product selection of probably 50 to 100 items. A grocery store has a product selection of probably 10,000 to 50,000 items.
BLESS OUR FAMILIES, O LORD.
Whether they are families by blood or circumstances, make them holy.
Make Yourself easy to find Lord. Let us find you in our marriages, our families, our households, our communities and our relationships. Let us find you globally.
Many things in our daily lives seem to conspire to divide us. Help us see beyond the divisions and see a family. Help us embrace one another as a family. Help us love each other as a family .
May families in food pantries everywhere know your presence as they go about their days.
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Thanks for reading this article! If you’ve been reading posts here or, if you’ve just found this blog, I’m taking this opportunity to tell you that this blog, www.hungerisnotadisease.com and the companion blog, www.reflexologyforthespirit.com have been running for 10 years! Thanks for your patronage!
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Lord, this prayer is for the brave and diligent shopper. She walks in. And she never misses a week.
Lord, she is ferociously focused on getting to the pantry.
Looking neither left or right, dismissing the rain, or the cold, or the boiling heat, she makes her way each week through the crowded parking lot.
I pray for her grace, energy, and willpower. I pray that someone or maybe several someones can witness and celebrate her discipline and focus.
And, I pray that others will notice her voyage each and every week. I don’t want to be the only one who sees her gracefully make her way through the crowded shoppers waiting outside the pantry for it to open.
Lord, I know you sent her to lift our hearts: patient, lovely, graceful. She is our inspiration.
I think of her on shopping days when I drive to Albany for extra food. She keeps my own work ethic steady.
And, she lifts my heart.
So, thank you again for sending her.
You can purchase this latest book about the spiritual journey of hunger at www.thurmangreco.com.
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My guests enjoy being on the show and many ask to return. One thing we all have in common: we’ve all met each other somehow in Woodstock, NY
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Lord, you know I do need them, of course.
For each sore shoulder pain or back spasm that goes away after a while: THANK YOU!
The small pains remind me of all the pantry work that needs to be done every day. When the small pains come around, they remind me to pray for more volunteers.
So, thanks for the sneezing fits and scratchy throats I get every delivery day.
The last time I had a sharp pain on delivery day, I caught myself praying in surprise. And, guess what! The entire Roberts family showed up to help. It was just a miracle – that’s all.
And, one afternoon, I had a shoulder pain during the pantry shift and a volunteer stepped out of the line and helped us all that day. And, he kept returning every week for several months.
For me, these small pains are reminders that I should ask for help and be ready for it to show up!
What these pains mean is that I should also hold out hope for the coming miracles.
After all, miracles happened and I couldn’t hide from them. I was in denial for the longest time but, eventually, I had to face facts. When I finally owned up to their reality, I saw they were special miracles for a food pantry.
Stigmata, relics, icons, and visions weren’t appropriate for the pantry.
Nobody controlled how or when they happened, only whether or not they were seen for what they were. I wasn’t focused on the miracles because I was busy paying attention to lifting boxes, stocking shelves, filling out forms, driving to the dump with the trash.
And, so, Lord, I promise to try to ask for help when the pantry needs it.
THANKS FOR READING THIS POST! It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?
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It is my latest book about food pantries, hunger, and Woodstock.
A first-time shopper in a food pantry looks at the available foods and the question coming to mind is “How am I going to get a meal out of this?”
Supermarket shoppers push some foods aside, choosing other items. When that happens, a store manager sends the rejected boxes and cans to the food bank where they land at the last stop: a food pantry somewhere.
Foods ending up on a pantry shelf are often unrecognizable to the ordinary person shopping at the supermarket.
Food pantry shoppers may not know how to make their future happen but they know standing still isn’t the answer. To be hungry is to search for spiritual sustenance, mental stamina, physical endurance, emotional balance, and food.
People go hungry when the income, whatever its source, isn’t enough to meet the cost of living.
When a person lives with hunger, just waking up in the morning and going through the day challenges heart and soul. A normal existence seems impossible. Every chance at happiness seems lost.
Most food pantry volunteers and shoppers I know are in a reconstructing and healing mode. Life is finally improving! After losing everything, getting things right again means taking many steps. For some it means “No matter how hard I try, I’m never going to be able to fix this mess”.
But this isn’t necessarily true. Hunger doesn’t rob us of every chance for happiness. Figuring this all out means trying new things again and again and again.
Food insecurity leads to questioning everything including our basic beliefs because they failed us from the getgo. For many, searching for a stable food supply, a roof, gas in the car, clothes, and healthcare becomes a search for God.
The soul needs compassion, forgiveness, and the ability to give more than take.
When shoppers don’t have enough food to eat, giving and sharing and believing are necessary. Because there are no road maps for this trip, the soul becomes the guide.
Volunteering in the pantry changes lives and heals people. My first visit to a food pantry changed my life. In my heart, I feel a food pantry has opportunities waiting for us. They are different for everyone, but they are there.
It takes much energy and time to find a food pantry you can get to and where you can shop. A person can burn up many phone minutes doing this. This experience strips away any illusions we have about ourselves and the world, and how our lives are unraveling.
Thank you for reading this blog post. I feel you are reading this article for a reason.
Maybe you need a moment for yourself. Maybe you are seeking information to change your life. There are interesting, informative, and life changing articles on this blog which date back to 2013.
Maybe you can benefit from some of the information in this blog. I feel that you can discover some strategies for boosting your life and times.
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I just read the news – over 500,000 people are now homeless in Europe, thanks to current events.
In times like these, I always turn to the music of Tom Pacheco. His songs are prayers, heartfelt prayers of understanding and appeal.
When I went to www.tompacheco.com, I heard a perfect song for our situation! Thank you Tom Pacheco!
He wrote the song below for sisters and brothers everywhere. We all need a little help now and then, especially those of us in war-torn Ukraine.
SHADOW OF A SEAGULL
Heavenly father, spirit of all I can see
Watch over my sister the way you have watched over me.
Give her protection, through any danger she meets.
Though she may stumble, let her always land on her feet.
She’s been unlucky. She’s been betrayed.
This time, please give her a good hand to play.
Make every cloud she cannot outrun
be just a shadow of a seagull in the sun.
I have been worried, knowing she’s out there alone
searching for something inside that is deeper than bone.
How long can somebody suffer so much for so long,
before they believe there’s no reason at all to go on.
Show her, her value, to her own eyes.
Give her the wings that will help her to fly.
Make every cloud she cannot outrun
Be just a shadow of a seagull in the sun.
She has taken far too many falls.
Worked so long and hard just to lose it all.
Every crop she planted did not yield.
This time, let a treasure fill her fields.
Guide her through valleys, clear a few trees from her path.
Spare her the merciless winds and the cold winters wrath.
Lead her to someplace of beauty where healing can start.
Let the moon shine off the rivers and into her heart.
Let her find purpose and let her find peace.
From every prison, may she be released.
Make every cloud she cannot outrun
Be just a shadow of a seagull in the sun.
These lyrics and music are copyrighted by Tom Pacheco.
I urge you to listen to some of Tom’s songs. He is good. His heart goes out to the men and women and children suffering in Europe now.
Tom’s energy and work is just the person to motivate us to bring peace in our hearts for Ukraine.
I know this, first hand. Tom stepped up to the plate in Woodstock to help those in need more than once. Tom only knows to give for the benefit of others.
I wrote a memoir about hunger and Tom is in it twice, I think. He is going to be in my upcoming book “Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles”.
Do you have any of his CD’s? If so, play the music to receive peace.
This book sells on my website, www.thurmangreco.com. When you purchase a copy, I’ll send it to the address you give. And, I’ll forward the proceeds to Tom as a small tribute to the goodness he brings to the planet.
Tom’s energy ripples out everywhere and this is something we can all use in these times.
My T-shirts are also available now. We need more of this energy and the proceeds can ripple out as well.
It’s possible that some of you will not understand this appeal. But, some of you will.
THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU ARE DOING TO PROMOTE PEACE ON OUR PLANET. EVERY SMALL VIBE COUNTS AND MULTIPLIES THE STRENGTH.
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“Shadow of a Seagull” by Tom Pacheco
Thank you for your support throughout the year and for the holidays.
I’m hoping that you can continue to include your “feeding the hungry” activities throughout the coming year! Your donations translate into hot meals, safe shelter, and a reminder to the hungry and unhoused that there are those out there who care.
Your generosity changes lives. Food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters restore people’s lives.
It takes all of us to support those in need.
Do you have a crowded closet? Winter clothing needs include:
foot wear – especially boots
warm gloves and hats
jeans and pants
The items most often resquested: socks
– – – – – – – – –
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THANK YOU FOR CARING!
Do you want to learn more about hunger and homelessness in America? You can find more info in previous posts on this blog.
Persons with no fixed address live in what some refer to as an “invisible world”. With your help, they may not be stuck there. Making their day-to-day lives a bit easier is helpful and important. There ARE things you can do.
This list of ten things to do may seem a little bizarre to you. But, a List of Shelters is very different from a List of Food Pantries or Soup Kitchens.
If you take this list seriously and use some of the suggestions, you’ll understand.
But, whether you try to do one item or all ten, I send you gratitude. The things you do will ripple kindness out beyond your circle. And, right now, kindness is needed desperately.
DEVELOP A LIST OF SHELTERS
Search out local shelters and create a list card. List each shelter by location and include phone numbers and a bit of information which may be helpful to those without addresses.
Distribute copies of this card to homeless people.
MAKE A LIST OF FOOD PANTRIES
A homeless-friendly food pantry distributes ready-to-eat items like peanut butter and crackers in individual packets, cereal and milk in individual containers. Some food pantries offer small containers of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Search out area food pantries that are homeless friendly. Make an info card listing hours and days each pantry is open. Include the phone number, address and directions to get there.
Distribute copies of this card.
INCLUDE A LIST OF SOUP KITCHENS
Search out area soup kitchens. Make an info card listing hours and days each soup kitchen is open. Include the phone number and address with directions to find it.
Carry copies of this card to distribute.
Organizations serving the homeless always need gently used items in good condition. They need items in all sizes from infant to XXL and beyond.
Blankets and sleeping bags are in demand year round.
People are always asking for socks.
Because the homeless carry their kitchens in their pockets, their food needs are specific: peanut butter and crackers in individual containers, individual packets of vegetables and fruits to be eaten raw (such as strawberries or carrots), cereal packed in individual containers, milk packed in individual containers.
When someone in your community conducts a food drive, donate a bag full of homeless-friendly foods.
If no one is having a food drive, fill a grocery bag with food and take it to your local food pantry, shelter, or soup kitchen.
Better yet, hold a food drive yourself.
In the past I’ve blogged posts about holding a food drive. Several dates of these posts include May 3, 2018, January 13, 2021 – February 11, 2021 – February 25, 2021. There are others.
Food drives are not difficult and they can be fun. Everyone should have the experience. Email me if you have questions. email@example.com
VOLUNTEER AT A SHELTER
Shelters depend on volunteers to sign people in, and cook and serve meals. Depending on the resources of the shelter, you may be able to do other things such as helping kids with homework, teaching ESL classes, writing resumes.
VOLUNTEER AT A SOUP KITCHEN
Soup kitchen volunteers pick up donations of food, help prepare and serve meals, cleaning up at the end of the shift.
VOLUNTEER AT A FOOD PANTRY
Volunteering at a food pantry is a community experience. I did it for years. Never, at any moment, did I feel I was wasting my time.
SHARE A MEAL
Whenever you leave your home, bring a bagged meal to share with a person on the street.
When you do a few of the things on this short list, you will find yourself involved in your community, even if that was not your intention.
Your interest in hunger and homelessness automatically makes you an advocate – even if you don’t think you are. When you help feed hungry and homeless people, you are fighting hunger in our country.
Most people in food pantries distribute a 3-day supply of food to everyone in each household.
But, however you see yourself, your good work, kindness, and generosity will ripple out beyond yourself and your community.
One thing is for sure, we need more good work, kindness, and generosity rippling out.
Something else happens when you share info cards, bagged lunches, food, and sleeping bags:
The homeless people you interact with begin to lose their invisibility. You replace that invisibility with respect when you treat them as individuals. Courtesy, kind words and a smile will change not only your life but theirs. .
You may even learn someone’s name!
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Think back to the time when you were a child. Life was probably less complicated then. Occasionally your parents or grandparents or maybe a school teacher, or a rabbi, priest, or pastor had talks with you about life.
Your mother, father, grandmother, teacher may have spoken about sex, money, God, doing right from wrong, not stealing. These talks were important.
Well, now you are an adult with your own life. Consciously or unconsciously, these early life talks shaped you and still influence you to this day. The reality is that the person who took the time and effort to make you a successful adult may now be in need of a talk. It’s entirely possible that this older person of influence to you is quietly doing without the food necessary to lead a healthy life.
Why is this happening?
Well, there may simply be more days in the month than money. Many seniors in our country have outlived their pensions, savings, ability to hold down a job. Statistics tell us that one senior in seven doesn’t get enough to eat. SNAP is one successful way to help seniors.
Seniors are eligible for SNAP.
If you are a senior, please apply for these benefits. You worked all your life, paid your taxes, contributed to the economy. It’s time to benefit from all the contributions you made throughout your life.
SNAP helps pay for the food you need to live a healthy life. When you eat healthier food, you can prevent and control some chronic health issues. This will lower your medical bills.
When you get groceries with SNAP, you’ll have money for other things you need.
SNAP is a debit card offering privacy. That way, if you don’t want anyone to know you receive SNAP, they won’t.
When you use SNAP, your community benefits. This is because you bring money into your local economy which helps farmers, grocers, and local businesses.
When you receive SNAP, you are not taking money away from someone else who might need it more. There are enough SNAP dollars for everyone.
Apply for SNAP at your local Department of Social Services office.
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The website, www.Thurmangreco.com lists books which give more information. You can also purchase T-shirts, aprons, and other items to support alleviating hunger in America.
Why are you talking about having no bread? – Mark 8:17
“You shouldn’t feed this kind of food to these people. If they are hungry enough, they’ll eat anything.”
There’s a hunger beyond food that’s expressed in food. And, that’s why feeding is always a kind of miracle.
Food helps the sick and injured when the cook’s intention is incorporated in the “broth”.
Delicious food can be one of the last experiences of physical joy for the dying.
Food and healing go together because when you feed others with integrity, you help them heal.
Sharing food in the food pantry is a sacrament.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The food pantry was in the basement of a church right off the village green.
And, I hadn’t even darkened the door in a church in over thirty years; not as a congregant, not as a guest. The closest I came to the inside of a church or syagogue was a graveside burial service for an older relative in a military cemetery outside Culpepper, Virginia. I also attended a Jewish wedding in a hotel in Baltimore.
When I became a pantry volunteer, I found myself in the local interfaith community, a stranger in a foreign land. Right away I noticed that, intermixed with the need for peanut butter, shoppers showed a strong spiritual need for connection, acceptance. This was the hunger beyond food. The closest many shoppers ever got to a church or synagogue service was the pantry line in the basement of the building.
A food pantry is another way to have a religious service. Sharing food is the prayer. Food distribution in the pantry is a spiritual experience.
When things really get going, pantry volunteers regularly distribute thousands of pounds of cereal, beans, soup, grapes, lettuce, carrots, and squash, bread, cheese, eggs.
A liturgy is hidden in how we process the shoppers through the barn, the hallway, and the pantry room. The pantry offers Communion to a group of people in the middle of a spiritual journey.
In the beginning, I didn’t see this. Then, I began to get glimmers. I saw things in people’s faces – I didn’t know what. I couldn’t explain it. But I recognized it. I saw an expression, and had an “aha” moment.
This Communion doesn’t require much. Shoppers and volunteers simply sign in at the food pantry door. People came from all different places spiritually and religiously: agnostics, atheists, B’Hais, Buddhists, Christians, Confucians, Jains, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Russian Orthodox, Shintos, Sikhs, Zoroastrians.
Early on, I saw something in a person’s face but didn’t know what. I couldn’t pinpoint, describe or explain what I saw.
The man who lost what he believed was the last job of his life…
The old woman with her toddler grandson who chose his own apple at every pantry visit…
The senior wearing a baseball cap with “Korean War Veteran” embroidered on the front…
They came through the line and took what they needed for the week: tomatoes, a bag of salad mix, squash, onions, potatoes. They received what they chose with no strings attached. Our nation’s abundance stocked the pantry.
Volunteers distribute food unconditionally to everyone who shops, without exceptions. Hungry people pour through the basement weekly and leave, their arms loaded. Some of them get almost more fresh produce and Bread Alone bread than they can carry.
And, if they can’t carry it, Richard, Robert, Jamie, and Little Mikey (the entire Allen family) help.
This family has a mission. They help get supper from the pantry into people’s cars and on its way to their homes.
Each week I opened the pantry when I unlocked the outside door with a key. The locked building also housed a beautiful sanctuary. As volunteers, we were allowed in the portion of the hallway where the pantry and storeroom were located.
Each turn of the key reminded me that a church with no one in it is just a building.
We encountered faith in the pantry outside the church sanctuary on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. With little or no religious doctrine, these weekly encounters were as freeform and varied as a faith can be because the State of New York insisted on secular food pantries. I felt our pantry represented civic religion – belief in things without including God. Everyone going through the pantry had a different doctrine.
It was all okay.
The whole thing reminded me of the birthplace of Lyndon B. Johnson at the memorial built in his honor in Johnson City, Texas. After spending time at the memorial, I realized I visited a deeply religious and spiritual place…but it was civic.
There’s room for civic religious beliefs in the pantry. After all, worship can happen in the most varied placees: inside a jail cell, a cemetery, on Facebook, at a family table, a roadside shrine, a person praying on a rug at high noon in a parking lot somewhere, a mountainside, a stream, a hospital room, a monastery.
All it takes is for someone to be alert to what’s happening.
For me, every shopper and volunteer has meaning and is cherished. Each and every one is of profound value. It doesn’t matter whether or not anyone else sees them as successful or beautiful or useful even. Success, beauty, and usefulness doesn’t impact anyone’s worth. Everyone in the pantry is worthy.
That’s what matters.
Looking back on my time in the food pantry, no one else saw any similarity between Communion and the food pantry.
Church members never noticed the most popular service in that building each week fed the hungry at the food pantry in the basement.
And, I didn’t either in the beginning.
Later, when I recognized the face of God, I got it.
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Did this quotation interest you? Is it a compellling message for you? If so, maybe you would like to listen to the YouTube interview with Salvador Altimarana-Segura.
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