The Saturday prior to Christmas the girls and I worked for the parish. We got up early an I thought I would hear complaints but they quietly got dressed and ready. 13 bundled up and forewarned 14 who didn’t listen and ended up cold after on.
We headed to school to help the parish disperse food and gifts to the less fortunate.
I thought this was about us helping them. Boy was I wrong. When we arrived on this bitter cold morning there was a line of people already waiting.
We positioned ourselves as they opened the doors. I was in the gym assisting with ‘shopping’ and the girls acted as Sherpas, lugging bags to cars.
Families can register for gifts, food or both. They pick up gifts first and then head to the gym to ‘shop’ for food. I carry the bags as they fill them with oranges, potatoes, cookies, and other goodies.
As we shop, we chat. The gratitude expressed by these folks always amazes me.
A few of our guests stood out to me..
First there was a lady that came in for the first time. She was about 50 or so. She started crying from the moment I said hello. She cried and thanked each helper filling her bag. She continued to cry and hug people as she left. My girls took her items to her car and 13 said she was given the tightest hug… One she would not soon forget. A hug that made 13 cry too.
Then there was The the lady in the red hat. She was so nervous. About 65 or so and did not want to take too much food. She said that there were others who needed it more than her. We got to the end of the line where the guests are offered a ham. I admit it is huge but can be shared or frozen as it it’s fully cooked. She didn’t want it and left. A short while later she came back saying she changed her mind. So we went to get the ham. She was so nervous that her hands were sweating and I noticed she was rubbing them together hard enough to break the skin. She was so unsure about the ham. I reassured her and gave her suggestions as to using it all ( Sharing with a friend, freezing, packaging it in smaller potions, etc) but I could see that this was so stressful for her. She then whispered “I am so scared.”
“The ham. It is so big”
She went on to tell me a few times how scared she was as I tried to comfort and reassure her.
“We just want you to have food but if it is too much, how about I just cut you a small piece to take home?”
She looked as if the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders! She showed me exactly how much he wanted and I went to the kitchen to cut it for her. I returned with her small portion and she placed it in a bag, thanked me and left. As it turned out there were a few others that did not want an entire ham and took the leftover smaller portions. Everyone was a winner in the end.
There was the lady who did not take much food because it was not organic and there were too many processed foods.
There was a lady who came in dressed to the nines… She looked so stylish but when you got close enough you could tell that everything she had on was well worn or ill fitting. She had an air about her though that caused us all to stop and take notice.
There were folks that wanted to get through that line as fast as possible in order to leave. Embarrassment? Pride? Not sure but with us was the last place they wanted to be.
There was the lady that had taken the train to us. We had no idea until one of our teen helpers was missing for a while. We thought he had decided to hide out and take a break. Little did we know he had walked her and her food to the train station (3 blocks away) wearing only a sweatshirt. He came back a teen Popsicle.
There were so many more faces and stories in the over 140 families we served that day. Faces I see each time I shop. Faces I see each time I look at my full fridge. Faces that I see each time I pray.
Each face a reminder of my blessings. Each face the face of God. Each face changing my perspective.