Scouting for Food

I am a pretty lucky woman.  I have a relatively easy life.  I have a GREAT husband, a GREAT family (in-laws, out-laws, and everyone in between), GREAT pets, a GREAT job, GREAT friends, GREAT colleagues, GREAT students.  Yup.  I’m a lucky woman.

Right now, I’m sitting in my office, my feet kipped up.  The Boy is in the backyard, mowing the lawn. The dog is curled up in a ball on the floor in front of me, his eyes are getting that heavy, lazy, somnolent look as he slowly falls asleep and does the hardest job in the world:  keeping the floor down.  Somewhere in the house, the Girl is playing, likely her dragon world game on her iPad.

Yup.  My life is easy and good.

This morning, my husband’s scout troop participated in the annual “Scouting For Food” event.  Essentially, different troops, dens, and packs will leave paper bags on the doorsteps in neighborhoods on one day.  The request is for the people to fill the bag with non-perishable food and leave it out on the requested Saturday.  The scouts will drive around, pick up the food, and bring it to a central location and drop it off where another Boy Scout troop will load up the food into a big-truck-trailer.

Easy.

Pat and I got up early.  I stopped off at Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and doughnuts (because getting a bunch of young teenage boys on a sugar high is the best option when trying to do an organized event).  I met Pat, the Boy, and the rest of the Boy Scouts at the required drop-off-place because we were the ones assigned to do the loading.

Not a big deal.  Wait around for about an hour, drink coffee, eat doughnuts, enjoy the chilly-fall-air.  Cars/trucks drive by, we grab the bags, count the bags, load them into the trailer.  Repeat.

I was pretty passive during the entire experience.  I helped with the loading, chatted with adults.  I waited with the a few other adults until 2:00 in the afternoon when the truck driver came to pick up the truck and take the food to the local food bank.

Easy day.  Nice morning.  Good time with GREAT people doing a GREAT thing.  Yeah!  Pat myself on the back and come home to play Candy Crush.  And then I’ll go to church and keep on feeling those nice, warm fuzzy thoughts.  Oh yeah.

I’m so passive with this part of my life.  I want to do good.  I try my best to do the best possible good that I can do.  But, because my life is so easy, it’s easy to forget what that good is doing.  And how sometimes my best good really isn’t good enough.

For example.  I brought food for the scouts.  I even went out and snagged them dinner.

But I didn’t fill up a bag for the food bank.

And when I was helping load up the food, I noticed that a lot of the food was likely someone else’s I didn’t mean to buy that food.  Like a jar of olives.

Really?  And these looked like the type of olives you would put in a mixed drink.

Now, before I get thrown under the truck for complaining and being all self-righteous and all that, please understand that this is not about complaints.

This is me mentally seeing my reflection in a jar of olives.

Sure, I’m a teacher and I really don’t make the money that I should be earning.  Sure, I could go ahead and get another job.

But, the reason that I don’t is, mainly, because I like what I’m doing and I like the hours that I work.  Why wouldn’t I want to have summer vacation?  Sure, I work my butt off during the school year and more than make-up for the fact that I have “summer vacation.”  But, at the same time, my job is…well…GREAT!

But I’ve never had to stand in line at a food bank and hope that the food which is currently on the shelves is something that I would actually like to eat.  I can’t tell you how many cans of tuna went into that truck.  And tuna’s a great food.  It’s in a can so mice won’t be able to get into the package.  In addition, it’s a healthier meat than red meat.  It’s already cooked so the person will only have to open the can and could actually have a decent source of protein.

My problem.  I loathe the smell of tuna.  So much so that I really can’t even think of eating it because almost every time I smell it, I really just want to vomit.  I work with a couple of colleagues who used to eat it every day and I got used to the smell, mostly.  I didn’t want to say anything because another colleague used to make derogatory remarks every day to the point where the tuna-eating-colleagues were so uncomfortable they stopped eating it.  And then the complaining-colleague got a new job and the tuna came back.

My point is, I’m really, really blessed.  And by blessed, I mean REALLY blessed.  Because I don’t have to stand in line for my cans of tuna or cans of chicken which actually smell like cat food (the only time I will eat canned chicken is when I’m camping and I have a wood fire to help conceal the smell…even then….I chew and swallow as quickly as I can to pretend that I really am enjoying the food whose smell has convinced my tongue that I’m eating cat food).  And I don’t have to use food stamps and hope to God that I will have enough “money” at the end of the month.

I’m not reliant upon the kindness of others.  And I’m grateful for that.  And I’m not looking down on those who are.  I’m merely saying that so often, I hear the phrase, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

True.  I have been in situations where the money I had to live on were the coins in a jar.  I remember the time when I had about thirty dollars to my name because I was stupid with money and was too embarrassed to ask for help.  I just stiffened my upper lip and tried to find work and ate as simply as I could because I couldn’t afford to even consider buying something other than Ramen or canned vegetables.

But poverty should not deny a person his/her right to dignity and integrity.  Nor should the lack of poverty enable a person to choose not to look at things from a different perspective and think about what people might want to eat as opposed to “well, at least they have something.”

I noticed bags filled with peanut butter.  Bags filled with canned vegetables.  Bags filled with macaroni and cheese and some Ramen.  Some people were super generous and gave lots of baby food.

Because poverty and starvation doesn’t pass over infants or babies.

As I sit here with my feet propped up and enjoy the sound of my son mowing the lawn which is massively overgrown and enjoy the climate controlled temperature of my house, I feel guilty that I didn’t go out and buy a bag of food.  It really wouldn’t have cost me that much.  It could really help other people.

One thing I have learned is that Christmas is a fantastic time for people to give.  During a season of kindness and compassion, people give all the time.  In talking with people from local food banks, though, the kindness ends right around the beginning of tax season.  Maybe it’s the credit card debt.  Maybe it’s because Valentine’s Day is about showing love and compassion only to those who are closest to you.

I think I’m going to challenge myself, my family, my students, and my colleagues to doing a food drive in the spring.  Because no one else does.  But people are still hungry.  And this way, I can feel like I haven’t been sitting on a high-horse but just on my butt which is currently in my chair in my office.

I can’t look down on people.  I’m too short.  But I can look at myself and see that though my life is GREAT, not everyone else’s is.  And I can always do something about that.

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