Friday, May 18, 2007

A Down And Up Day

We served 37 households at the food bank today. We had pre-cut melon, fruit salad, prepackaged salads, strawberries, six flats of mushrooms, tomatoes, leeks, beets, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and some other random things. At the end of the day we had some mushrooms, a few salads, and some of the random stuff left, plus some eggs (usually we go through them all but we had sooooo many! I don't know what is going on with inventory ordering at the store that donates to us).

One of the people who comes to the food bank is a young man in his mid-20s who has been doing data entry for the FB as a volunteer. He only comes to the FB when there aren't a lot of people around, because being around people scares him. He suffers from (at least) serious depression, and he doesn't like to take his medication because of the side effects. He didn't sound suicidal today, saying that he was trying hard to take care of himself so he didn't destroy himself, but he is clearly in bad shape. He doesn't want to go to the hospital or his therapist because they will only medicate him and he doesn't want to suffer the side effects. He talked to the volunteer coordinator for awhile, but she doesn't know what to tell him.

When we were running our program, we had some people "piled up" waiting. Our operation is that a volunteer calls the number that the client got when she or he signed in and then while one person is getting the pre-set boxes and the meat or fish, the client selects the produce, dairy, and eggs that we have out. They go down the counter (sort of) and when all of the client's stuff is together, then the next person is called. The process works about as quickly as a grocery store with one checker. I was the number caller and while I was waiting for some of my coworkers to help a client, I overheard a woman complaining into her cell phone that our "process is really f---d up... It's really slow."

When I called her number and she got up, I thanked her for waiting and apologized that it seemed a long wait. She immediately placed a call on her cell phone and I said, "This process will go quicker if you get off the phone." Yes, it was snarky but I was annoyed. I was trying to help her, after all, and she was being really arrogant. Of course she did not get off her phone, though I think I heard her say that she would call the person back (who must have ignored her, because she was still on the phone when she was choosing bread).

Late in the afternoon, like at almost 4pm when there was almost no one in the FB, a woman signed in and when I asked her how she was, she said she was blessed. "I woke up this morning and someone else didn't." She went on to tell me that she was feeling particularly blessed. She said she had struggled with her "German pride" but had finally come in because she was hungry and we had food. She has gotten a good paying job that starts in a couple weeks, had gotten away from a dangerous domestic situation in another state that she was in for more than five years, and had gotten her daughter on a trip out of the country. She was feeling happy, blessed, and grateful that things are good and getting better - and that we had all this great food for her to take home and cook. She gave me a hug when she was done getting produce.

Almost the last people we served were a man, about 40, wearing slacks and a white shirt, and a woman who had the kind of big smile that makes you think of toothpaste. She signed up and did the paperwork, and went down the counter with me getting produce; he looked tired and hot, and sat in a chair. The woman was happy. Happy that she could get food from us, happy with the selection when I explained what was in the pre-set box and bag (for a household of four), and happy that we had eggs and salads left when she got there. She was also happy, she told me, because they had just gotten the word that her husband had been hired at a new job. I gave her a high five (we do this a lot at our dance studio and it's become a habit) and congratulated the husband.

It's nice to end the day with smiles and gratitude, and hugs. It's totally not necessary, of course. But it feels good.

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