“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” – Psalm 63:1
“That person lives in Shandaken. He shouldn’t even be here.”
The pantry served shoppers, volunteers, hungry people. Volunteers fed everyone in the line. No exceptions.
Distributing groceries brought forgiveness and healing. Healing was an after thought of forgiveness.
For me, healing required some commitment and thought. Whether or not this was true, questions always arose:
“Am I ready to be healthy?”
“Can I get well if it’s scary?”
“Can I leave the old me aside if it’s necessary for healing?”
“Why am I going through this?”
“What is the meaning of it all?”
These questions could be painful. Healing can be hard on everyone.
The pantry line had massage therapists, Reiki practitioners, medical intuitives, and other healers.
As a healer, I know healing happens on several levels in our lives: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, mythical. Both healing and getting well were special challenges because many of the people in the hallway, the pantry room, and out in the parking lot didn’t have health care.
While he had his office, Woodstock had Dr. Longmore. After his office closed, things were tough for many. As health care became scarce, everyone became personally involved with the differences between healing and getting well. For some, this was part of the spiritual journey.
Hunger often went beyond a plate of beans or a jar of peanut butter. That’s why food is essential to healing. That’s where homemade soup comes in.
Sharing food in the pantry helped people heal. Fresh vegetables, eggs, and Bread Alone bread offered a healing experience with abundance. As we fed the shoppers, we helped ourselves and each other.
In some cases, the shoppers became the volunteers or the volunteers joined the shoppers. Shoppers came to get food and found they could volunteer. Volunteering changed them. As a person distributed groceries, the volunteer made contact with another person and was able to smile.
Pantry experiences coaxed us out of our own problems. Offering a sense of community gives back so much more.
Do you want to be healed? Healing and feeding are connected.
Sooner or later, we all get sick. Finally, we die.
No one escapes. This truth is harder on hungry people who have no $$$ for health care.
Hungry people are often blamed for their inability to deal with the situation. It’s as if it’s their fault for being down and out in Woodstock. If they lived right, they would be healthier, make more $$$ in their jobs.
If critics stopped and thought about how insufficient nutritious food, improper housing, and inadequate or nonexistent healthcare impacts a person, they might feel differently.
What did it matter that there were no jobs in the area and none of those that came open paid over $8.00 an hour?
Because they were down and out, they must be guilty of something.
They were negative thinkers, lacking faith, and basically lazy. Something.
They were gay, trans, promiscuous, alcoholics. Something.
They were freeloaders, irresponsible, flaky. Something.
Healing and getting well are two different things, acting in different ways. But, whether a person heals, gets well, or both, change happens.
“Do I want to heal?”
“Do I want to be well?”
“What if I come out of this experienced a different person?”
“What if it takes a long time?”
In the midst of this, the pantry offered some normalcy to the shattered lives of hungry people when they took pantry food home to wherever and whatever that was, fixed a meal, and served it to those in the household.
It was supper from the pantry.
Health issues pointed to the spiritual challenges which popped up on the path to the pantry. Healing was on the agenda. We all wanted to get well.
People getting well overcome symptoms. Getting well means doctor’s visits, therapy, pills, creams. These things were simply not an option for pantry shoppers because there was no money.
Symbolic healing occurred in the hallway on pantry days as shoppers and volunteers discussed their diabetes, PTSD, cancer, allergies.
Working and shopping in the pantry was therapy to volunteers and shoppers. These hallway conversations were cheaper than the physical and mental health services they had no money for anyway.
These conversations were essential because talking about a health issue promotes healing. Shared symptoms gave us all support, strength, validity.
Everyone walking through the door to the pantry, whether a shopper or volunteer, was asked to leave the past behind. This experience was different for everyone. But, think about it, how can we move forward into our new lives if we never give anything up.
For some, giving up the past means letting go of things lost: the job, the home, maybe the family, self-esteem, the car, good health, money, insurance, the pet, anger, or drugs.
As the past disappears, the remaining spiritual baggage weighs less and less. Prejudices become fewer. Fears diminish. We heal!
Some things surrendered were physical, some mental, and some emotional. But, one thing is certain, whatever the category, the experiences all had a spiritual aspect.
Giving and receiving food brought everyone a little peace.
Everyone coming to the pantry heals somehow. The pantry community supports and approves hungry individuals as they climb back on the road to wellness and something offering normalcy.
Nobody just wakes up one day and says “I think I’ll go down to the local food pantry and volunteer.” People spending time in pantries all travel down the path. Healing has signposts along the way.
Some needed physical healing. Volunteers occasionally came to the pantry so ill that they were barely able to make it into the building. When this happened, I stationed them at the Items of Dignity table distributing toilet paper, shampoo, razors. They offered one roll of toilet paper and one other item to each shopper.
Each week, Deanna slowly walked the two blocks to the pantry and then worked in the hallway a couple of hours while she gathered enough energy to return home.
“Don’t forget your roll of toilet paper, Judith. We’ve got some hand cream today. Can you use that or would you prefer tooth paste?”
When Deanna finally couldn’t work in the hallway anymore, Rachel gracefully sat at the Items of Dignity table helping shoppers choose their two items. Rachel lived in nearby Mt. Tremper. Her living situation seemed somewhat precarious because every few months she looked for a new place to live. She lived in her car a couple of times.
Thank you for reading this blog post. This is the first food pantry article on healing.
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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!
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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