Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Groceries For Those In Need
For many years, I served on the Board of a large community social service agency in our area. One of the impacts of my role, was that I became more aware of a large segment of people and families who struggle daily with mental and emotional illness, substance abuse, poverty, homelessness, and a host of other issues that make managing even the routine parts of their day-to-day lives a real challenge. Today I decided to make a small difference for at least a few of those families.
I knew that providing transitional housing for people who were temporarily homeless was one of the many services this agency provided, and I knew that these people often lacked some of life's basic necessities, so I called the agency's development director to see how I could help. It seems that these families are often put up in small hotels until more suitable, longer-term housing can be found. Since they have little money for food and almost no cooking facilities, they depend on things like simple, prepackaged or microwaveble meals, soups, canned fruits and vegetables, etc. - so grocery donations can make a big difference.
Swinging by our local Target store, armed with a list of needed goods I got from my agency contact, I went grocery shopping for at least some of these items. I bought things like frozen dinners, soups, apple sauce, cereal, bread, granola bars, peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, and bottles of water, to name just a few things. It was honestly a little sad to picture a family sitting in a hotel room eating this stuff, but I felt good that at least I was able to provide something for them.
When I was done shopping, I headed straight to the agency where I dropped off the items at their "food pantry" and then headed home to my beautiful house filled with whatever food I want. This, of course, led to a variety of thoughts and reflections.
Since a big part of my commitment this year is to notice and record my thoughts and reactions, I'll share a few of them here. Not surprisingly, one of my first thoughts is always to be thankful for where I am and what I have. After that, though, I sometimes get caught in contemplating whether any of this makes a difference. I know that it's an easy trap to fall into - seeing the vastness of the "problem" and feeling like my shopping trip is not only tiny in its impact, but that I'm not doing anything at all about the underlying causes of the problems. It's then that I try to remind myself that this year is not about solving all, or even any, of the world's problems. Rather, it's about cultivating a heart of kindness and each day simply finding a way to help another person. I suppose it's the mindset that so many who are in helping professions must adopt to stay sane and productive - in a sense, keeping your head down and helping one person at a time.
As I progress through this year, I also want to stay mindful to doing a mix of all types of gestures of kindness, for all kinds of different people; and I want to keep a steady balance between acts that require money (like today) and ones that don't (like shoveling snow). They both have their place, and both will make up the tapestry of what this year ultimately becomes.