She always arrives at the first-come, first-serve location at least 30 minutes early. Although tenth in line, she’s fortunate to beat a much longer line, standing behind her one by one, one behind the other, out in the cold, in the heat, or in-between six feet apart. They come from all walks of life and faith, patiently waiting either with a foldable shopping cart, a parked car, or nothing but their bare hands.
Some are turning to food pantries for the first time. Others, like her, are accustomed to the routine of receiving free food every week or month. Depending on the size of the household, recipients may receive more to take home.
Visitations to other pantries in other neighborhoods are possible to receive additional food assistance or non-food options such as paper products, personal care items, and various services from mental wellness to social.
This morning, she got to eat toasted wheat bread along with eggs and a cup of coffee while she’ll enjoy a prepackaged Caesar salad for lunch after returning from the pantry. For dinner, she’ll feast on a beef pattie with canned vegetables, mashed sweet potatoes and bread, and what’s left of her cherry danish afterward from her previous run.
Before the pandemic, she walked past a line of people on that very same block on her way to work. At the time, she felt asking for assistance was beneath her and laughed at the thought that only weak-minded individuals would put themselves in a situation like that. She ridiculed and turned a blind eye to the poor and the less having every chance she got.
Never once did she ever think she would be in the position to figure out how to put food on the table, let alone be unemployed. Not once did she believe she would struggle to make ends meet nor have a problem sleeping at night. The harsh reality hit her like a ton of bricks.
She was burned with shame, surrounding the stigma attached to poverty. Like many amid the COVID-19 outbreak, she had a hard time adjusting to changes in her life. She was desperate to find ways to pay her bills from the brink of being homeless. While her initial trips to the food pantry were in secret, her life insecurities left her embarrassed.
She learned to stretch out her resources and live below her means to have a sense of normality back by working with a tight budget. Going from name-brand to generics to eliminating the luxury purchases, she started to cut back on her spending on non-essential items. She tried her best not to let others know she is poor.
She is fully aware that apologies will not fix everything, but she will start by showing compassion to those in need. Unlike many during the pandemic, her lesson in humility was well-deserved, and she knew it. She has no excuse for her regrettable actions and behavior. She will forever carry a weight of tremendous guilt of her ignorance that’s been eating away at her. It will always serve as a reminder to stay humble.
Noticing the same volunteers she would see week after week, she befriended a few and gave her thanks to many for their constant help. Upon her return home, her grocery for the month included fresh seasonal produce, dairy, frozen meats, non-perishables, baked and dried goods, among other items, including flowers to take home.
Previously published on medium
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