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Thursday, December 10, 2009 in , , , , , , , ,

Free Food - an Ode to Nourishment

Funny that the place I now visit
for donations of government cheese
and frozen blueberries
is also a place that provides
of an entirely different sort.
Like a trail of crumbs
through the forest
scratched knees
fingers bleeding

and each crumb I put on my tongue
dissolved quickly

only to lead me to the next.
But not now...

The first visits were humbling
on levels I had never reached before.
Tears of desperation gracing my cheeks
like pilgrims

wandering through the arid landscape

seeking and seeking -

A glance of kindness
and a safe place
to strip off the artifice
of the outside world
and just ask -

Ask for help.

Garments of pride and prejudice
fall off
like lettuce leaves past their prime
and mix in with the moldy vegetables

hamburger buns

kind, worn hands

and government paperwork.

Sign here - X
To receive service.

The hours spent waiting
amidst others also seeking

As if we are all on a subway train

that departs from an old church basement
between 9-11 AM
every Thursday.
Enter the underground
and have a seat
Your turn will come soon enough.
Look carefully at faces
in this lobby -
the antechamber on the way to who-knows-where,
but it must be better, right?

Eyes filled with misty, lost thoughts
quickened by deliveries of spoiled apples

and the scurry that ensues
snare a share.

Piles of men's shirts

boxes of shoes
they all spur the pace of the room
then return
to sit
and wait some more.

I become half-visible
when I enter
the doors of the station.
Anonymous and among the mounting ranks
of middle class Americans

for something more.

This Thursday morning journey
has a hidden gift
that goes beyond the groceries.
Watch travelers joke
and talk.
Stop and look
at the light falling on faces.

Try to see beyond the skin

to the internal clickings and clackings

of the tracks going by
the crumbs hitting tongues

just a little more softly.

The time I fill with open thoughts
exposed to something I never would have seen

except I needed this -

for whatever reason -
I needed this.
Needed the cans

the bags

the bundles
and the time.
A year-long journey on this side street

to seek

to see
beyond the temptation of food
to being truly fed
to sit and read "Trout Fishing In America" one more time
and laugh at stories of trout flashing in streams

caught cold from the water
For that was dinner in a different time -
a more self-sufficient time for all of us.

And now I sit
and instead of tears
I can giggle a little
as I wait for my bags

and know that my journey is nearly through.

At home the frozen berries, blue and sweet

taste strangely like gratitude
spreading their sugar on my tongue.

Thank You

Dear Friends,
For the last year my family has been receiving assistance from our local food pantry. The journey of the past year, including this particular experience, has been nothing short of transformative for me. I could not be more grateful not only for the assistance but for what I have seen and felt during this time in my life.

I think it is important to remember as food stamp enrollment is soaring and food pantries are having difficulty maintaining food supplies that this can happen to anyone. It isn't just the downtrodden, the homeless, the mentally ill... it can be any of us. There is no shame in wanting to provide for your family and there is no shame in asking for help when it is needed.

My family's food budget was hit drastically at the beginning of this year as we struggled to make our mortgage payment. For 6 months now we have been waiting on news of a mortgage adjustment that was promised through the Home Affordable program. That program has now been denounced by the New York Times as having helped perhaps only a few tens of thousands of the 650,000 applicants who have requested adjustments due to hardship. Our lender, Coldwell Banker, has offered nothing but empty promises. Our government should be ashamed. This program is an utter failure and I can only assume that so many other families like ours are holding on, paying what they can, and seeking other assistance to make it through.

Through the amazing grace of our local pantry system, the generosity of my neighbors, and some very creative side work we have forged ahead. I just wanted to write a bit to the world this holiday and remind those that can to please donate and do what you can. But for grace and good fortune in your own life you could be here too.

It was in high school choir, taught by Claude Westfall, that I learned one of the most important life lessons I could have ever received.

"We are only as good as our weakest member."

This is true not only for a choir but for American society and the world as a whole. It is time to lift each other up a bit, to offer a hand to someone struggling, to think a little less about self and a little more about all. There could be nothing more important at a time of year dedicated to sharing and giving. Sometimes all it takes is a smile, so if you have nothing else to give right now perhaps just give that.

A little Good Will goes a long way. I'm proof, and I hope to share a little of my own and pay it forward.

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