Everyone shopping at a pantry has a first visit
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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An Angel and a Group of People on a Spiritual Mission
Every December, we celebrate Christmas, often with a tree and a Nativity scene. We exchange gifts and worship the birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.
We often give generously to others in gratitude for the blessings we have received throughout the year – through the practice of Biblical stewardship.
Food pantries throughout our nation anticipate this generosity. Often, the food received will carry a pantry into February or March. Most people who drop off a bag of groceries have no idea how important this donation is to the shoppers and volunteers in the pantry!
Seeking facts surrounding this annual celebration, I read Bible stories and sermons, essays, and books on the birth of Jesus written by priests, pastors, missionaries, and Bishops.
The story I found is not so much an account of what happened as it is a chronicle about a group of people and an angel on a spiritual journey to fulfill a prophecy.
Over time, and throughout the world, parents consult with Gabriel for strength and guidance concerning challenges they experience during child conception or adoption, and early childhood.
Archangel Gabriel is a patron of communicators, including TV, radio, computer communications, and telephone; even postal workers.
Research showed me this story brings meaning for today. Both personal and political transformation involved every character on this journey.
GABRIEL AND ZECHARIAH
For me, the first scene begins with Elizabeth and her spouse, Zechariah. Elizabeth was an older cousin of Mary living in Judah. They tried for years to have children.
Gabriel first appeared to Zechariah in the temple.
“Elizabeth will give birth to a son. John the Baptist will convert many people to God. He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to drink wine or fermented drinks. He is filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.”
Zechariah questioned this news: “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
The angel replied: “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God. I have been sent to bring you this good news! You will be silent and not speak until this happens.” (Luke 1:19-20)
Zechariah left the temple, unable to utter a sound.
GABRIEL AND MARY
Mary enters the story as a young girl growing up in a small town, Nazareth. Mary was born into a devout Jewish family in the time of Herrod, about 4 BC.
Having reached puberty, Mary was ready for marriage. Because she was a practicing Jewish girl, her parents Joachim and Anna felt they should find a suitable Jewish man for her.
They settled on Joseph – an older man in the community, a carpenter.
Mary pledged to marry Joseph. Both Joseph and Mary were excited about this.
Before her appointed wedding day, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with a surprise: “You are to conceive and become the mother to the Messiah. You shall name him Jesus.”
Mary responds: “How can this happen? I am a virgin.” (Luke 1:34) This is when Mary discovered her destiny.
Tradition has it that her parents were horrified when Mary told them about Gabriel and the coming Jesus.
Mary disgraced her family because this news brought them shame. Mary and Joseph were engaged but were not yet living together.
Community customs offered Mary, her family, and Joseph three options, all bad:
She could marry Joseph.
Joseph could publicly denounce her and divorce her, possibly result in her stoning.
Finally, he could marry Mary and then quietly divorce her. Legends tell us Joseph preferred this third option.
Mary’s parents were so upset by her news that they sent her to visit Elizabeth, Mary’s older cousin, living in the hill country of Judea.
When Mary arrived at her home, Elizabeth’s baby leaped in her womb, and she explained to Mary:
“Blessed are you among women. And, blessed is the child you will hear!” (Luke 1:42).
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but he has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1:46-55).
GABRIEL AND JOSEPH
Legends and historical references indicate that Mary returned home from visiting Elizabeth when she was about six months pregnant.
While Mary traveled home, Gabriel visited Joseph in a dream:
“Joseph, do not be afraid to marry Mary. The child she carries is from the Holy Spirit. You are to name him Jesus. He will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:20-21)
Joseph brought her into the home he had built, and they lived together. It was clear to Joseph that this was the work of God.
Meanwhile, back at Judah, at the time of the birth of John the Baptist, Zechariah was filled with the holy spirit and spoke again. He voiced a prophecy:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
As he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the
hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenent,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and
before him all our days.
And, you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:67-79)
A short time before Mary’s expected due date, the Roman government decreed a census. Everyone had to return to their hometown to register.
Joseph and Mary packed a donkey and took for Bethlehem. They stayed in an overcrowded inn where Jesus was born. They ended up in the barn with Jesus sleeping in a manger filled with a freshly-made straw bed.
Jesus was vulnerable here; yet powerful, in the barn. He quietly witnessed the event.
A star appeared to lead Magi, teachers, shepherds, and priests to the inn.
The angel Gabriel appeared to them: “Do not be afraid. I bring good news that will cause joy for people. A savior has been born to you. He is the messiah.”
When the star stopped, they found Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. They bowed down and worshiped the baby Jesus.
A multitude of angels joined Gabriel singing,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
And on earth peace to those whom his favor rests!” (Luke 2:14)
Having been warned of danger, they gave gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and then returned to their country by a different route, spreading the word of Jesus as they went.
GABRIEL AND JOSEPH
After they left, Gabriel again appeared to Joseph in a dream:
“Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you.”
Joseph got up, took Jesus and Mary in the middle of the night, and headed for Egypt, where they stayed until Herrod died. (Matt. 2:13-14).
Tradition has it that Joseph took comfort in a favorite psalm.
Have mercy on me, Lord,
hear me, Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your sevant, Lord,
for I put my trust in you.
You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord
listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
Because you answer me.
Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
For you are great and do marvelous deeds:
You alone are God.
Teach me your way, Lord,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
Give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart.
I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths,
from the realm of the dead.
Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God;
ruthless people are trying to kill me –
they have no regard for you.
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and have mercy on me;
Show your strength on behalf of your servant;
save me, because I love you
just as my mother did.
Give me a sign of goodness,
that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
JOHN THE BAPTIST
John hung out in the desert wilderness as an adult, preaching repentance and baptizing people in the River Jordan. “Repent for the Kingsom of God is at hand.” (Matt. 3.2)
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you.
who will prepare your way”-
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
Prepare the way for the Lord,
Make straight paths for him. (Mark 1:2-3)
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. (Matt 3:4)
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matt 3:11)
People went to John and listened to his message because they looked for prophecy. They sought signs of redemption and salvation. (Matt. 11:7)
Their journey did not end here. They traveled on, calling from their hearts. Following Christ, they experienced a balance between human and divine.
Jesus was both the son of Mary and the Son of God.
Thank you for reading this article. Please refer it to your favorite social media network. Share it with your friends and family.
Scripture quotations were taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV
Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.
If you have further questions or remarks, I can be reached at email@example.com.
Jennette Nearhood and Michele Garner provided the artwork of Mary and the Angels.
Thank You for Bringing HOPE
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.
10 Things You Can Do to Help the Homeless
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
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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One last commercial here: A “HOPE on the ROAD” presentation was recorded and is on YOUTUBE. Tune in to YOUTUBE to benefit from this presentation.
I can present a segment of “HOPE on the ROAD” to your library, your organization, your class, your group.
If you are a Reiki practitioner, “HOPE on the ROAD” is easy to learn so you can present it to people in your area.
There is no charge for “HOPE on the ROAD”. To participate in “HOPE on the ROAD”, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grief in the Pantry Line
When I think of grief, Lemon Balm Betty surfaces from my memory banks. She ran around the parking lot outside the food pantry as fast as her feet would carry her, yelling at the top of her lungs “Thurman Greco is a f*** a****!
She carried anguish and anger like twins. When anger bubbled up and yelled and yelled, anguish followed.
“I don’t think she’s ever going to smile again.” I thought to myself whenever I saw her run her circle around the parking lot.
One day she brought an armload of peppermint. I put it out in the pantry for shoppers.
When she saw her donation in the fresh produce section, a smile lit up her whole being. Finally!
In days past, we all looked for security and some of us found it.
But then, things spun out of control and our lives began over in the pantry.
Despair was unavoidable.
Fearful shoppers were uncomfortable and felt hurt in their hearts, clear down to their first chakras.
When we realized how vulnerable and insecure we were, distress happened. .
No one talked about it much, but people working and shopping in a pantry lost a lot: jobs, family, (not to mention the house and everything in it), friends, self-respect, self-love.
They lived an ongoing series of losses.
In the pantry, we all just ducked our heads and pressed on. Hungry people lived with the specter of what if:
What if I hadn’t lost my job?
What if I hadn’t come down with cancer?
What if I hadn’t lost my car?
It was all loss: a lost job, the death of a loved one, a foreclosed home. Loss triggered feelings and it was all incredibly lonely.
Occasionally I saw people crying in the pantry. And, truth be told, I cried in the pantry a few times as well.
Sometimes I cried silently. Once I wailed loud, earth shaking, tears. I was intensely afraid the pantry would shut down. I knew there was no other place to feed the people.
I don’t remember what made me become so emotional that day. The reason I cried escapes me now because why I sobbed wasn’t important.
More important, the pantry was a safe place for us all or no one would have shed a tear. Safety allowed me to let my guard down for just a moment to shed tears I needed to cry.
This I do remember: I cried tears for us all in the building that day as numbness wore off.
Wounds needed tears to heal. Once this happened, we tried to move forward again. Drugs numbed and masked the pain, but there were no pills to heal wounds.
This journey confronted traumas, and finally resolved things lost. A despondent person moved forward never leaving grief behind. The pain and the journey relied on emotional suffering.
Weekly trips to the pantry left us all with unfinished business. It was impossible to lose so much with a clean break.
Travelling to the pantry, our lives were up and down. We carried happy and sad memories with us in the pantry room. Disaster was the new normal.
Tears paved the way for the good luck we experienced after the feelings of sadness and loss diminished.
Sadness had to be experienced.
The journey attracted spine and joint problems, respiratory problems, irritable bowel syndrome, bronchitis, asthma, pulmonary issues.
Our situations needed to be experienced honestly. Denying grief got no one anywhere. I was honest with myself about the sorrow I felt for the pantry.
If I hadn’t been, I would have lost it to those who didn’t approve of me and the hungry people the volunteers fed.
We each faced a challenge: How to figure out who we were at the moment and who we hoped to be in the future.
In the middle of all this, we carved out a place in the new reality we found. Then we could each define who we were in our new surroundings and in the community.
When we wrote our new stories and tried on our new identities, we saw the past, the present, and the future blended together.
The new stories brought depended on newly discovered talents and strengths. A new voice surfaced. I felt it drowned out the negativity. When this happened, we were ready for a new life.
What about a new home, family, pet, job, car? We all had different relationships to repair and rebuild.
Each person working in the pantry or walking through the shopping line felt loss differently.
This was our spiritual work. Some were lucky enough to move on to a different town, a job, a different family.
But nobody walked away from this loss , pain, and grief. So, it was okay when we stayed in town together as we picked up the pieces of our lives.
I recognized this new voice whenever I heard “I won’t be coming again. I got a new job and I’m moving on.”
Things didn’t always make sense because the voice was filled with anxiety, struggles, and disappointments. In the end, it all came down to discovering what worked and what didn’t.
Each of us saw this uniquely.
Rita lived in the Saugerties/Palenville area before Hurricane Irene. That storm cost her everything. One day her life was normal and the next she had nothing.
The most anyone could say about Rita was that she was homeless.
A mutual friend, Lorene, found Rita a worn-out pickup somebody couldn’t sell or even give away.
Until I looked closely at it, I didn’t even know what color it was.
I knew what color the tires were, though: slick and bald.
Rita got the pickup and the key that went with it. She put the key in the ignition and turned it. The motor came to life. It got her to the gas station. Hurrah!
She began her life over by doing anything that anybody needed to have done for $10 an hour and lunch.
She cleaned out flooded houses and sheds. She hauled trash to the dump. She used her computer skills when somebody needed administrative savvy.
Her clothes came from Family of Woodstock.
She rented a room in somebody’s house and was finally not sleeping in the pickup.
Whenever she worked in Woodstock on Wednesdays, she shopped at the pantry.
I’ll say this about Rita. She never grumbled. With a smile on her face, she always acted as if the pantry food was the best she had ever eaten.
And never, not even once, did she complain about the ancient jalopy pickup rig she drove around.
As far as I could tell, she never lost hope. Without hope, I don’t think she would ever have made it to the other side – wherever that was.
I never once asked her how she got the pickup repaired and I never even looked near the inspection sticker. Frankly, I was afraid to ask. I was afraid she would tell me.
Truthfully, Rita was no different from any of the rest of us shopping and volunteering in the pantry.
She had to figure out how much of her past she could rebuild. And she had to figure out how much of her past she was simply going to close the door on as she moved into the future after Hurricane Irene.
Rita gave up much beyond her material possessions. She gave up everything that she felt stood in the way of a successful future. For Rita, quitting was something she couldn’t afford.
She gave up rear vision. Looking into her past simply didn’t happen to Rita. She gave up bitterness and seeing wrongs. This meant she gave a person a second chance, and even a third if they needed it.
She gave up waiting and putting off something beccause the stars and planets weren’t properly aligned. She gave up criticism. This included self as well as others.
Rita was the right person in the right place in the right job to be able to unfold her path in front of her. She carried on each day as if she truly believed it was better than yesterday.
She walked as if blessings were all around her.
Each day, every day, Rita risked whatever was necessary to rebuild her life. Rita embraced the future while renouncing her past. She never quit.
Rita was our poster child. She found meaning each day, even in the worst situations and the most inhumane conditions.
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Because of its spirituality, this article could fit easily in www.reflexologyforthespirit.com. Because of the food pantry setting, here it is in www.hungerisnotadisease.com.
5 Easy Steps to Your Successful Food Drive
It’s easier than you think.
Choose the food pantry, homeless shelter, school, church, food bank, or soup kitchen to receive the food you collect.
Contact your recipient, and learn what items the hungry people need. Try to be specific. Can they only accept canned food items or can they use frozen and fresh foods? What about pet food?
If they need pet food or food for homeless people, for example, request those items (with specific food item suggestions) at your drive.
Decide how you want to collect the donated food.
The method I prefer is, of course, the one that worked for me several times. I recommend this method:
Gather some large empty grocery bags in good condition.
Attach a letter to each one saying something like:
“We are having a food drive in this neighborhood. Please fill this bag with food and set it out on your entryway on ………………………….. when it will be picked up between 00:00 and 00:00. Include am and pm to be more specific.
We need the following kinds of food:……………………..
Your donated food will be donated to ……………………………… Thank you for your generosity. If you have any questions, please call…………………………………. Signed…………………………………….”
Set the bags out at every address in the area you selected.
On the appointed date, return to the addresses and pick up the bags of food.
Deliver them to the selected food pantry, homeless shelter, school.
Pat yourself on your back. You did a great job!
My experience with this food drive method is that people respond positively because you give them bags, tell them exactly what food items you need, and return to pick up the food at a specific time on an exact date.
Thank you in advance for all you are doing to feed your neighbors.
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Have a wonderful day!
Food Pantry Rules – 2021 – Pandemic
If you read my last post – “Food Pantry Rules” – you may have thought you were in some time warp. Travel had returned you to about 2010.
Well, not really.
The pandemic changed many details but the bones of a food pantry event are the same.
The volunteers and the people who shop at the pantry are the same.
Everyone comes together looking for groceries but often, they want and need far more.
Food pantry lines get longer every pantry day because people, families, struggle with change they didn’t ask for.
They are rewriting their destiny stories without a road map or instructions.
A number of people in the food pantry, both shoppers and volunteers, didn’t know about food pantries until circumstances set up a situation where they suddenly looked around and realized they were in a car in a long line waiting for food.
There is a name for this category: SITUATIONAL POOR.
A person fits into the situational poor category when she lands in a situation created by an event such as a hurricane, fire, flood, pandemic, or other disaster which destroys the home, car, job.
Food pantries offer much – peace, community, spiritual connection, groceries.
A food pantry in the basement of a church is a cross between a church and a busy pizza place.
A food pantry in a line of cars in a pandemic is reminiscent of the mass food distributions we held periodically in New York State after the collapse of the economy in 2008.
A line of cars filled with people needing food wraps around the block, down the road, and even further.
A whistle blows.
The cars begin to move. A volunteer puts a bag (s) of food in each vehicle.
Everyone wears masks.
There are still food pantries where people show up to a church and receive a bag of groceries.
But, whether the food is distributed to hungry people in cars or to hungry people walking to a building, a food pantry distribution is not a program. It is a community made up of those who gather the food and distribute it, and those who receive it. The process of distributing the food to people creates a change in everyone.
The experience does not heal a person. Nor does it change the story. It does not offer therapy. The experience itself is a conduit for each person’s own spiritual growth and change.
Never once when I was involved in a food pantry did I kid myself into thinking that I was winning the war against hunger. And, I do not kid myself now.
I know this food pantry food distribution experience does not end hunger. Instead, it offers food for several meals. And, that is all.
Ending hunger is another matter altogether.
I do feel, though, that the rules are changing. The pandemic experience is altering the hunger situation dramatically, at least. The pandemic experience is altering the hunger situation permanently.
“How is that?” you ask.
The pandemic has changed how our food is grown and distributed. Food pantries are a link in the food distribution chain. This chain now looks different. The link connections are different.
“How is that?” you ask.
For one thing, the restaurant industry is different.
Food production and distribution is different.
I do not think we know yet just what the fallout is. We have yet to live out the end of this story. We’re living and experiencing the future. For some, it is hard to see the big picture because the changes have not yet come around for each of us to see and experience in our daily lives.
In any event, the Pandemic is not us what we think. Our opinions and preferences don’t count for much here.
One thing is certain, our future is destined to be different from a future without a Pandemic. Another thing is certain for me: We can never return to our past.
We are all destined to experience a new Pandemic future.
Whatever the future brings, we need to keep on feeding the hungry in whatever way that works.
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Food Pantry Rules
A food pantry is what it is because of three things:
the economic situation at the moment
the people who shop there.
The people come together looking for groceries but often, they want and need far more.
While the coronavirus pandemic rages, the food pantry lines get longer every pantry day because people, families, deal with change they didn’t ask for.
In short, they are rewriting their destiny stories without a road map or instructions.
A number of the people in the pantry, both shoppers and volunteers, didn’t know about food pantries until circumstances set up a situation where they suddenly looked around a room and realized where they were.
There is a name for their category – SITUATIONAL POOR.
A person fits into the situational poor category when s/he lands in a situation created by an event such as a hurricane, fire, floor, pandemic, or other disaster which destroys the home, car, job.
Pantries offer much – peace, community, spiritual connection, groceries. I always think of a food pantry in the basement of a church as a cross between a church service and a busy pizza place.
A food pantry, and those connected with it, are not a program. They are a community. As volunteers, all we really do is open the door. As all the hungry people walk through the door, they undergo a change somehow.
Each person in a pantry, in whatever capacity, has experienced rejection in some way – too young, too old, too crazy, too sick, too poor, not poor enough.
The food pantry experience does not heal a person, nor does it change the story.
The food pantry experience does not offer therapy.
The food pantry is, instead, a conduit for each person’s own healing.
FOOD PANTRY RULES
Sign your name in the register as you enter the pantry.
Find a place in line.
Do not crowd or block the door to the pantry room.
No more than 2 shoppers are allowed in the pantry at one time.
No more than one new shopper is allowed in the pantry at one time.
Shop for a three-day supply of food for everyone in your household.
Place your selections on the table as you shop.
Respect the restrictions on certain foods.
Finish your shopping in 10 minutes.
Once you begin to bag your groceries, do not continue to shop.
Because the food availability is different each time you shop, it is best to visit the food pantry weekly.
P.S. The rules may be different at the pantry where you shop. Each food pantry is different. The space is different. The times the pantry is open is different. The management is different.
These specific rules were used in the food pantry I managed where the people were many, the space small, and the hours few.
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Miracles – Because Hunger is Not a Disease
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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Hunger and Healing for Ourselves and our Planet During this Spring Solstice
Throughout the month, and especially on March 19th, whenever you find a time and place that fits your schedule…sit quietly for a few moments and visualize a world where positive renewal and growth exists for all beings.
Invite adequate housing, nutritious food, and reliable quality healthcare to become a reality for all.
Plant spiritual seeds to nurture goals and dreams of everyone. Reflect on all the wonderful opportunities available in our world for growth and hope throughout our planet.
Spend a moment including goals for housing and food and healthcare for those who have insufficient resources
Honor the mystical and magical change of seasons creating space for the spiritual growth for everyone.
Check in with yourself now. Give your spirit the support it needs and seeks to bring housing, nutrition, and good health to everyone on our planet.
Quiet your mind as you bathe in this new energy created by spring. Invite universal balance, and abundance into our world.
May all beings on this planet live and thrive in peace and harmony.
Thank you for reading this Meditation.
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