Free Food at a Price
My God shall supply all my needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19. Today God supplied my need to humble myself.
July 12, 2011. Today my wife and I went to an emergency hunger center in our neighborhood, (see video at end of this blog) in Cleveland Heights. Inside we were met by a dour man in his 60's, standing in front of a desk, face snarling, slightly slouched over, one hand in his pocket seemingly sizing up the scum as he looked up peering over his glasses at us.
"Take a ticket he barked," as our eyes met.
I felt trapped in a "Where's Waldo" episode, only Waldo had a whip,and the stopwatch was racing to zero, as my eyes frantically raced up and down, back and forth across the room until I found the number 7 on a dowel of numbers on one of the walls. "Oh look honey," my wife exclaimed, "only 7 people in front of us!"
An elderly lady had entered the room. "You're the only ones here," she explained.
"Okaaaay, so why do I need a number," I thought. I was fearful to broach the topic, even just out of curiosity, we sat down and the surly man began to ask questions to ascertain how provably poor were we . We supplied the proper documents while an upbeat, friendly man named Bob handed me a bag of fresh green leafy stuff and a bag of lettuce with peppers in it. We agreed that the green stuff was most likely Swiss Chard.
There were also baggies of sugar, flour, instant coffee and canned items on the desk. He stood briefly in the doorway behind the dour, surly gent seemingly apologetic. Was he apologizing for Mr. Surly or for my being there?
I didn't have my child's social security number with me but Mr. Surly assured me I could bring it when I came back. The thought of returning had not occurred to me. At one point my wife and I stumbled over information Mr. Surly requested, "Now look," he chastened, "I can't hear both of ya talkin at the same time!" The sweet elderly woman interpreted "We both have trouble hearing."
I felt my eyes widen so I picked up a flyer advertising a community meal at the church housing this food center, to bow out of the info gathering. "Oh you ought to come to that, the food is really good!" the sweet older lady chirped. I then eyed another piece of paper. "A lot of places on that list have really good food too but you need to call and make sure the hours are correct, this list may be outdated," she cautioned.
Not knowing the procedure it occurred to me maybe I should've brought a packing box, so I decided to take the few things on the desk and the greens to the car. Two others had come in during our interview, a lone woman and a young woman with a small child. The little girl had apparently not received the memo about not making eye contact and we studied each other on my way past her. A woman in the passenger's seat of a car stirred when I came outside. Today the recipients of free food handouts, seemed too intent on avoiding eye contact, or was I projecting? I leaned out of my way, like Michael Jackson in "Thriller" into the driverless car, to make eye contact with the woman who smiled sheepishly and replied to my hello. There I'd done it! I'd broken through the invisibility cloak!
I returned inside, like a convict to the electric chair, hearing the voice of another inmate, loudly addressing a cell phone as if straining to be heard over the din of an imaginary crowd in the tiny room. "Uh huh, well I calt chu the otha day and told you I wasn't doin' nat. Listen I'm over at da food place. I had my money come in an' I'm goin' to da sto'. You want me to pick you up anythang?"
She was obviously not a novice. She was serenely oblivious to the rest of us. She was seasoned enough to owe obeisance to no one. There was something to admire there but did I want to become a regular?
The Bounty: sugar, flour, 2 bags Jack Rabbit pinto beans, 1 bag of Diamond rice, 1 jar of Hampton peanut butter, 2 cans of Hudson sweet corn, 2 boxes of Tabatchnick 1% milk, one box of cream mushroom soup, 1 can of Hart sliced potatoes, 1 bottle of SunPac orange juice, 1 baggie of sugar, 1 bag of flour, 1 plastic tin of Giant Eagle Itty Bitty brownies "($3.99), 1/2 pound cake, a 2 pound loaf of bread, 2 bagels, 2 muffins, 4 small whole loaves of bread, 2 cans of Port Royal tuna, 1 can of First Harvest sliced peaches, 2 cans of Family Pantry chicken noodle soup, 1 can Estofado Verduras (stew), 2 cans Delmonte leaf spinach, 1 can Lady Liberty pear halves, 1can of Mothers Maid apples, 1 can of Beckman's greenbeans.
See you Thursday?