Hunger Is Not a Disease

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.

Maybe.

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.

Thank you for reading this article.  Please refer it to your preferred social media network.

Share it with your friends.

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.

Thanks

Thurman Greco

 

Winter Solstice – 2020

December 21st is the Winter Solstice for 2020.

The Winter Solstice is the annual celebration of the yearly rebirth of the sun.

Please take a few moments today to send healing, acceptance,  regeneration, and rebirth to all living beings – both plant and animal.

Visualize a world in which all living beings have enough food and water to nourish themselves into wellness in 2021.

Take a moment to release those things which no longer positively serve our planet and its inhabitants.

Find a few minutes sometime today to reflect on our planetary needs.  Reflect on how it will feel to live on a healthy planet where all beings experience wellness and coexist to honor and support one another.

Thank you for your healing thoughts and prayers.

Thurman Greco

Please forward this meditation to your preferred social media network.

Share it with your friends.

Paul, Duct Tape, and Homelessness

Paul has been on my mind all week.

One of my oldest friends,  I  knew him and worked with him when I worked and lived in Virginia – just outside Washington D.C.

Back then, we had Kelly Girls.   Paul was my very best Kelly Girl.  I could send him anywhere – well, not to the male chauvinist lawyer  who would only pay for a cute legal secretary.  But all the others loved his work.

He showed up on time for his assignments and he turned out a perfect work product.  He was a bargain.  Whatever he did, he made the client feel that Paul gave more than the money’s worth for every job done.

Everyone knew  Paul was homeless.  Nobody cared.  He was the best typist out there.  (This was before computers, you understand.)  A quality work product counts for a lot when it comes time to pay the bill, after all.

So why have I been thinking about Paul all week?  It was the Duct Tape that did it.  My watch band broke and I need the watch.  I drove over to Genter’s Jewelry Store in Saugerties and discovered a “for rent” sign where the “open” sign used to be.  Mr. Genter always fixed everything .  He didn’t care whether it was a watch band, a clock, a necklace.

He also sold silver and gold chains at bargain prices.  And, he custom designed a coin for me.  His work was exacting.  Genter’s  was my go-to destination for all things jewelry.

Genter’s is a statistic of the Coronavirus.   With Mr. Genter gone, what was I going to do?   I physically grieved when I saw the sign in the window.

I went straight for the Duct Tape.  I now wear a watch held together with Duct Tape.  I’m getting used to it, actually.  My sense of urgency  diminishes a little more each day.

I’m sure I’ll get along just fine with the Duct Tape.  Paul Did.

Duct Tape adorned most of Paul’s clothes and anything else he used.  Duct Tape held Paul’s shoes together.  Duct Tape held the watch on Paul’s arm.  Duct tape even kept Paul’s eyeglasses going.  Finally, Duct Tape held Paul’s winter coat together.

So, following in Paul’s example, Duct Tape will keep my fitness watch going.

I rather like my new Duct Tape look.  And, I like remembering Paul.  He always made me smile.  And, smiles these days are hard to come by.

Thanks Paul!  You set a good example.  This Duct Tape will work until I can find Mr. Genter, just as Duct Tape held your shoes together until you could find a newer used pair  of shoes.

And, thank you for reading this article.  Please forward it to your preferred social media network.

Thurman Greco

Woodstock, New York

PS:  You can order one or more of the fancy T-shirts pictured in this post today at :

www.thurmangreco.com.

I also wrote about Paul in “No Fixed Address.”

 

Hungry People

When an economy tanks, hungry people find the food pantry.   The tanked economy of 2008 has been referred to many times in the past few days on the news.  References to past broken economies  are made every day.

The situation is very different this time, but for the  hungry people, the situation  is the same.

In 2008, New York got with the program quickly, it seemed. The Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program people handed down guidelines mandating specific foods for the pantry room.  Produce, whole-grain bread, eggs, dairy products appeared on the shelves.  Crowds and an ever-lengthening hallway line became the norm.

In Woodstock, the pantry attracted several hundred hungry people to its basement room every pantry day.  The line formed outside the door at 1:00 for the 3:00 opening, regardless of the weather.  Hungry people who visited the pantry a week ago and took home groceries, would today be out of food and need more.

Today, in 2020, some pantries are closed.  That puts even more pressure on the pantries that are open.  Food pantry volunteers are not only serving more and more hungry people because of the layoffs of the pandemic.  They are also serving people who shopped at the now-closed pantries.

When people live close to the edge,  they have no reliable cushion.   They’ve lived in a situation where they make choices every day:  food or medicine, food or rent, food or gas.  Now, when the coronavirus strikes, they have no either/or choices.

Food pantry volunteers take precautions.  They take temperatures as volunteers enter the pantry.  Volunteers wash hands repeatedly and  adhere to the six-foot social distancing guidelines.

But the need for food is not imaginary.

Volunteers are realistic.  They can’t kid themselves into believing nothing will happen to them because they feed  hungry people.  They know they’re taking chances.  They also know they are doing a needed job.  For many volunteers, it’s something they need to do.

There are no words for this feeling.

I have a small thank-you gift for you.  All you have to do is email your name and mailing address to me at thurmangreco@gmail.com and I’ll send you, free of charge, with no strings attached, a small book about a food pantry I used to work in – “Miracles”.

Thank you for all you do…not only for volunteering in a food pantry but also for shopping at a food pantry.  Your actions are courageous.  Following your inner moral compass is also courageous.

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Thurman Greco

 

 

Good Neighbor Food Pantry and Woodstock Library Close

 

“Woodstock is completely packed with Coronavirus refugees from Brooklyn.  We’re doing more business here in the post office than we have every done.  This post office is busier than any Christmas rush has ever been.”

What a day!

I got a call from someone earlier today.  “The food pantry is closed, Thurman. How can this happen?”  As I went by the Woodstock Library, I saw a sign:  “Closed”

The Coronavirus affects us all.  We cannot avoid the reality.  People jokingly call our community Brooklyn North.

As long as you have a car and money and an apartment and a cell phone and a  computer, all you have to worry about is the spread of germs.  But, that’s not how it is with everyone.  Without a car and money and an apartment and a computer and a call phone, your life tells a different story.

Without those luxuries, your lifeline requires a food pantry and a library.

The library is essential because it’s your ticket to information about  food, housing, and anything else you need to find.  A library will help you find everything you need to survive.  And, while it’s giving you information, a library roof keeps you dry.  The walls of the library keep you warm and comfortable while you seek all that you need.

And, of course, the library has one other luxury people don’t talk about much: a bathroom.   If you are without food and a roof and a computer and a cell phone, a bathroom is essential.

So, while the Woodstock Reformed Church has closed its doors, most of the food pantries in New York state are figuring out how to get food to people.  They are receiving support from the Food Bank.

In fact, the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley reports that volunteers are responding to every emergency request received.  This includes food deliveries to seniors, quarantined and high-risk individuals, school back pack programs.

If you can get to a phone, there are a couple of phone numbers you can call.  Try 845-399-0376 or 845-633-2120.

Sources tell me that many  food pantries and soup kitchens are not closed.  I truly hope you can find one.

So, what can we do?  Well, for starters, try to contact people you know but seldom see and find out how they are doing.  Do they need anything?  Is there anything you  can do?

Contact food pantries and soup kitchens in your area and see if they need anything.  My bet is that they do.  My bet is they need food.

Times are serious.  Your help is needed!

If you run out of ideas, contact me at thurmangreco@gmail and I’ll send you, free of charge, my three action guides with practical tips for fighting hunger and homelessness.

Thank you for reading this article.  Please refer it to your preferred social media network.

Thanks again!

Thurman Greco

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.

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Thanks again

Thurman Greco.

 

What Inspires me in the Fight Against Hunger

Well, actually, it isn’t necessarily what.  It’s more likely who.  The first line of leadership inspiration is the hungry people in the food pantry line.  A food pantry really is all about the people grappling with hunger.

But, where did this whole thing actually begin?  For me, it all started with Robert F. Kennedy.  In 1967, he traveled to Mississippi to see poverty and hunger for what it was.  Being a wealthy man from a wealthy family, he actually had no idea.

Down there he saw  hunger and poverty for what it was, not what he thought it should be.  He saw people, elderly people, adults, children.  He saw people with no jobs, no welfare, no surplus commodities, and no food stamps.

If the history books tell this story  correctly, it was the children who got to him.  He saw the hunger as it was. Seeing children hungry to the point of near starvation,  Robert F. Kennedy came face-to-face with malnutrition.

Robert F. Kennedy was both moved and angry.

There is a book out there  telling the story of their  hunger.  You may or may not ever have heard about this book.  “So Rich, So Poor” was written by Peter Edelman.

In reading about Robert F. Kennedy, I read a paragraph which has meaning for me:

“All of us, from the wealthiest to the young children that I have seen in this country, in this year, bloated by starvation – we all share one precious possession, and that is the name American.

“It is not easy to know what that means.

“But in part to be an American means to have been an outcast and a stranger, to have come to the exiles’ country, and to know that he who denies the outcast and stranger still amongst us, he also denies America.”

Those words resonate with me.  They may  mean nothing to you.  But, whether or not they have meaning for you, they are powerful words and they tell a story I see in the food pantry line.

I thank you for reading this blog post.  I thank you for your interest in fighting hunger.  I know that distributing food in a food pantry is not going to do away with hunger.

But, this I do know:  Distributing food in a food pantry will keep the shoppers in that line from starvation for three days.

This is all I can do.  This has to be enough until a better option comes along.

Thurman Greco

Please refer this post to your preferred social media network.

 

 

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.

DANA

“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 wish!”

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.

Thank you for reading this article!  Please refer it to your preferred social media network.

Thurman Greco

Abundance 1: What Does it Mean to be Hungry?

 

 

Abundance.  What does it mean to be hungry?

For starters, it means you don’t have the money to buy the food you need for the next meal.

For one other thing, it means getting put in a category, or two, or even thirty.  And, getting labeled.  When the economic downturn began around 2007, new categories and labels appeared weekly, daily even.   Journalists, politicians, social workers, sociologists, writers, created new categories as they related stories about hungry and homeless people.  Stories about hungry people appeared in new ways and different situations.

The irony:  labels created other labels.  Simple truths seem endless and obscure the simple realities.  Reduced to the lowest common denominator, a person is hungry without enough to eat.  And a person is homeless without a roof to sleep under.

Abundance.  Examining the label, hungry means missing meals.  It means children only eat at school.  Life is good when school offers a universal breakfast to all students.  Lucy holds in a school with a backpack program so children bring home food on Friday afternoon for something to eat over the weekend.

Being hungry is not a category.  It’s a situation.  It can happen to anyone.

Hungry people are real.  In the food pantry, I saw a person with a  life instead of a label.  Hunger and homelessness happened   in many ways  Every hungry or homeless person in the food pantry line has a unique story to tell which is beautiful, spiritually revealing, and heartbreaking.  Each story explains what happens to a person when things spin out of control and the world falls apart.  Invariably, there is a path to travel.

Questions surface:

“Why do I do what I do?”

“How did I get in this mess?”

“How can I escape?”

“Who will I be in my new life?”

The journey begins, not ends, when things spin out of control, the world falls apart, and the person hits bottom.

Past mistakes lead to a new, better place.  It’s a good time to figure out what’s important and what isn’t.  It means offloading things you can’t keep anymore.

With nothing left to lost, you have a setup for your new life and opportunity.  For some, moving into a job means you pay taxes, rent, maybe buy some clothes, get retrained.  This is good for your community, the state and the Fed.

For all the bottoming out, I never saw a person unable to fix the circumstances.  Nobody hit bottom and then hung around down there.  Everyone seemed to be working toward moving back into someplace or something.  As far as I could tell, anyone deciding to commit suicide with a drug overdose or something else left town to end it all.  I never saw or heard those stories play out.

Several shoppers died a socially acceptable death by cancer.  What is a person to do when the job opportunities evaporate, the house forecloses, the savings spent,  Social Security isn’t enough, and the person is too old to start anew.

I questioned the fate of several shoppers in the depths of mental illness.  By the time a person was no longer communicating in a language understandable by fellow human beings, life becomes challenging.  One young shopper spoke in tweets, whistles, hisses, and other undecipherable sounds.  His mother, hidden in the background, did what she could.  I always wondered what would happen to him when she died.

This is the heart of the matter because pantries are all about gratitude and abundance.  Churches see pantries as an outreach project.  Outreach is a popular word.  Congregations support feeding the hungry, especially if the money goes to a group of children in Botswana, Somalia, India.  The farther away, the better, it seems.  When outreach is local things get dicey.

Pantry deniers describe  people as freeloaders,  homeless people as lazy, and all pantry shoppers as owners of upscale cars.

Whether the car is large, small, old, new, or a broken-down beater even, there’s a larger reality here.  Whether the vehicle was driven around or lived in or both, it’s the last vestige of days gone by.  By the time a person gets to temporary housing for the homeless, things are reduced to a few clothes, a blanket, hot plate, or maybe an electric skillet or crock pot.

For me, feeding hungry people in a food pantry is an act of gratitude.  When volunteers feed hungry people, we own up to the amazing abundance in and around us.  We also face our own spiritual hunger.  Feeding the hungry in a food pantry addresses the divine hunger issue head-on.

Abundance surrounds both pantry shoppers and volunteers.  Many churches and synagogues house a food pantry in a room in the basement.  There is absolutely no excuse for anyone in our country to go hungry.

Not everyone recognizes abundance in a pantry.  Not everyone recognizes the holiness of hunger.  I always know those who see its grace and those who don’t.  Those questioning who should be fed and who shouldn’t be fed have trouble with the sacred aspects of hunger.

To be continued…

Thank you for reading this article.  Abundance 2 will continue in the next post.

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Thurman Greco

 

 

 

New Beginnings – Part 2 as I Explore the Spirituality of Hunger in America

 

 

 

 

Like many first-time pantry volunteers everywhere, I showed up that morning because someone from the church asked me to come.  A slot needed to be filled and I stepped up to the plate when I was asked.  I was a foot soldier in the army of the outreach.  I tried to live up to my status in the church as a new member.  I showed up at whatever activity needed help and did my share.  Nothing more.

I had no desire to move up any ladder in the congregation.

On that morning of new beginnings, I had no premonition I would ever return to this pantry room.

I had no plans for this place in my future.  I had a profession teaching reflexology, Reiki, and canine massage therapy in a healing space in my home on Tannery Brook.

This was a case of fools rushing.  Knowing what I know now, I should have run out the door and never looked back.  Mary could have handled the crowd that day without me.  In the whole two hours, no more than a couple dozen people visited the pantry.

I wasn’t blessed with any psychic knowledge…certainly not the feeling of danger I felt when I saw the head of the building committee in the hallway outside the pantry months later.

There were no lines in the hallway at the new beginnings of my time there.  People wandered into the pantry in groups of one and two to choose from cereal, soup, tuna, and peanut butter.

Never in my wildest thoughts on that day did I envision the pantry hallway filled with hungry people, the tiny room packed with fresh produce and jammed with shoppers.

By 2008, the tanked economy was well underway and waits in the hallway were an hour or more.

The Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) passed down feeding guidelines which included whole-grain bread, 1% milk, fresh produce.  By 2011, the building committee had rules dictating where people could stand, what bathroom they could use, and what parts of the hallway were off-bounds.

Never did I foresee monthly food deliveries averaging over 12,000 pounds.

Never did I imagine, on that day, building committee members angry over hungry people receiving food according to guidelines set down by the State of New York, the Department of Health, and the United States Department of Agriculture.

I never thought I would spend months grappling with the unworthy hungry, a concept introduced to me by a local religious leader.  The concept wasn’t explained.  Only the two words – unworthy hungry – were used in a sentence:  “You are feeding the unworthy hungry.”  This was something I never heard of before.  What did she mean?  Who were the unworthy hungry?

After that first morning in the food pantry, I drove home, pulled out a little notebook from a drawer and wrote what people said, like real writers do.  When I wrote these things down, I felt my grandmother’s presence.

Her spirit was with me in the room.  I looked around the dining area to see if someone had entered the room without my realizing it.  But, no, I didn’t find a soul.  I walked over to a cabinet and began my dialogue journal on that afternoon.

A shopper:  “They cut my food stamps again.  I don’t know how I’m going to make it.  I have no money this month.  My car died and I don’t know where I’m going to get money to fix it.  If I can’t fix it, I can’t buy a new one either.”

Lillie Dale Cox Thurman spoke to me clearly that morning with emphatic, strong, direct instructions.  She went straight to my head:  “Write this down!  Write this down too!  Now…write this down.”

My grandmother, Lillie Dale Cox Thurman, stepped into my life on the first morning in the food pantry and never left.  Not even when my mother, Uralee Thurman Lawrence, roared in with prayers and fast, furious, aggressive instructions which I resisted to the bitter end.  Under their directions, I joined the crowd in the basement and was soon volunteering regularly.

So, now, I’ve got the second volume, “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles,”  coming out on this blog.

 

Thank you for reading this blogged book!  Please refer it to your preferred social media network and stay tuned for future chapters!

Thurman Greco