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On Being Poor

On Being Poor II

On Being Poor III

44 Families at the Food Bank today. We arrived at 8 o'clock this morning, and already there were about 20 families waiting in line to receive food assistance. Who knows how many people actually needed food, most of the families totaled six or seven, so we could have given food to hundreds of people. There were about a dozen kids in the Church's community center, where food is distributed on Mondays and Thursdays, some who had waited for 2 hours before the food even started being passed out. The sheer size of this group overwhelmed me completely.

We started running out of food at about 10:30am. There was no produce to be handed out, the small producer forgot to tell us that today was inventory day. Most of what we handed out were the essentials -- bread, rice, beans, canned goods, peanut butter, toilet paper, tampons and a small dessert. Although the amount of food was incredibly small (couldn't have totaled more than 40 or 50 dollars per family), these people were still grateful to receive it.

In all honesty, I didn't want to go today. I didn't want to volunteer. I didn't want to face reality, deal with the social problems I have been hearing about all year (I am a sociology major). I didn't want to deal with reality today. I wanted to sleep. But my fiancee, being the awesome ass chick that she has always been, dragged my sorry butt out of bed and brought me to the food bank. And the help not only was needed, but it was sorely needed. There is a lack of good, hard working volunteers at this particular small Lutheran food bank in Keizer Oregon. Most of the volunteers are well into their sixties and seventies and cannot lift and bend like they used to be able to. They need people, young people, to do the heavy lifting. I am so glad I went now, because today, of all days (the busiest day of the year my girlfriend's mom said) they needed help. I feel like such a dick for my initial reaction, but ultimately, I am glad I have such an awesome girlfriend to hold my ass accountable when it needs to be held accountable.

At any rate, even though we feed some of these folks for at least a week or two, in the long run, it is not enough. We fed 44 families today, but how many didn't come in? Didn't know about the food bank? Didn't know that the food bank is on Thursday at 9:00am? How many people didn't want to come in because they were too proud to accept food? How many people are still hungry? Food security (or insecurity, depending on your position in society) is becoming one of the most important issues of our time. And I saw the end result of that today. People waiting in lines for hours just to feed their kids for a week or two, desperate for anything to put in their stomachs. Its really shocking. Absolutely shocking.

I remember hearing about bread lines during the depression in history and sociology classes I have taken in the past. If anything, that is what I was reminded of today. I thought I would never see anything like that in my lifetime. But its here. Now. Right in front of my eyes. Real, honest-to-god bread lines; people waiting in line for hours just to sustain themselves for a few more weeks. Jesus, what have we become?

I will leave you with this: As we were closing shop for the day at around 11:00am, a man came in and asked for a food box. We said we would be glad to help, and my girlfriends mom sat him down to register him at the Food Bank. They talked for a while, and while I was listening to this conversation, I heard the most heart-wrenching tale I had ever heard in my life. This guy lived in a 3 bedroom "quadplex" that burnt down a couple of nights ago, and him and his seven kids are now living with his in-laws in a tiny house a couple of streets down. On top of that, he was laid off from his trucking job just weeks before the fire. We were almost out of food, but we gave him the rest of what we had (again, just about 30 or 40 dollar worth of food) and he was so grateful, so happy that he had been helped. He wasn't angry, wasn't upset in his lot in life (because god knows I would have been PISSED), just grateful. It was, honest to god, one of the most humbling moments I have come across in my (admittedly, short) life on this planet. I will never forget him, or his story.

Originally posted to word. on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 12:43 PM PDT.

Also republished by Income Inequality Kos, Volunteering for a Better World, Invisible People, and Community Spotlight.

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