Those of us associated with Food for Others see some remarkable people and hear some remarkable stories. Call it one of the benefits of our job. At this time of year, when so many traditions and cultures share wonderful holidays celebrating light amid the mid-winter darkness, I want to share some of those stories with you — stories of light in the darkness.
Two New Friends
On a recent afternoon at Food for Others, two women came in at just about the same time, both for the first time. We welcomed them, and explained how to fill out the registration forms. As they sat down to this task, one of the women began to weep. We know it is hard to come to Food for Others, harder for some than for others. We later learned the tearful woman’s husband had just left her, with no warning, and had closed their accounts. She had never worked in this country. Asking for help had not been something, at the age of 58, she had ever had to do. She was in pain. So she wept.
The other woman was the first to notice. She asked us for some tissues. And then, after the crying woman had dried her eyes, they returned to their registration forms and finished together. As they handed in the forms the second woman embraced the other, and held her for a good long time. They cried together. Then they sat down, and waited the few minutes to be called. When the loudspeaker called their names, they went out to the warehouse, gathered their food packages, and went their separate ways.
Celia (not her real name) came in to Food for Others like any other client, looking for some basic foods to see her through some hard times. She was eligible for the government supplements, but also needed to call her social worker to get the OK for the extra, emergency food Food for Others provides on the say-so of referring agencies. The social worker had to delay calling back, so Celia had to wait.
We were doing a mailing to our supporters at the time, and there was a pile of envelopes on the desk waiting to be licked and stamped. Celia was waiting and the envelopes were waiting, so Celia put two and two together and was soon busy filling up the outbox. As she worked, she talked. She had kidney disease, she said, and was on dialysis three times a week. We could recognize in her face the yellowish tinge of her condition; she did not look at all well. She needed a transplant, she said, but whatever insurance she had would only support the post-op anti-rejection medicine, which she would need indefinitely, for three months. So Celia, who (did we mention?) could put two and two together, recognized that taking a healthy transplanted kidney for just three months would be unfair to other transplant patients on the waiting list for a kidney. So she had declined the transplant. We listened, with compassion we hope, to her tragic dilemma.
Then her social worker called back and we busied ourselves getting Celia’s food. As Celia was leaving, she noticed the extra bread we keep in the outer office, to be taken by our clients as needed. She asked if she could take a little extra because she loved to make bread pudding. Of course, we said. And so she did, and was gone.
It was just about a week later Celia came back. She brought a batch of bread pudding for our warehouse workers who had helped her and had another for the Lamb Center shelter workers who had helped her there. She said she believed in showing gratitude, even when times were tight, and since bread pudding was her specialty, she wanted to share some with us. Her transplant dilemma remained, but she looked a lot better — you wouldn’t say she was sick by looking at her now. It was the new medicine, she said.
Along with the bread pudding she brought an older friend who also needed food but didn’t drive. We got her friend’s food, and then the two ladies headed off to the Lamb Center to share the bread pudding there.
We rejoiced that her health was better and, after she left, we asked ourselves how much it was the new medicine and how much it was Celia’s good heart and positive take on life. She certainly gave back to us more that we had been able to give to her.
And the bread pudding was delicious!
We got a call from an older man who lived at quite a distance from Food for Others. He had gone to his local food bank, but ended up Number 103 on a waiting list of 100 equally needy people. This man had a very elderly mother, and asked if he could come to Food for Others. Of course, we said, that is why we are here. It would be a while, he said, but he was on his way.
It turned out he had to walk several blocks to the Metro and then walked the mile from the Dunn Loring Metro to Food for Others. Undaunted, he filled out our paperwork and, now laden with several bags of food, prepared to take the same journey home. But providentially a nearby visitor, hearing his story, said he could drive the man to the Metro if the man could wait just a bit. (Food for Others does not provide transportation.) The older man gladly accepted, and soon he and the generous visitor headed out.
Later the visitor called us, and he was literally at a loss for words in admiration for the effort that this man, so up in years himself, had made to provide for his mother, and had done so with such an upbeat attitude.
What made the visitor show up just then, we don’t know. And how the older man got from the other end of the Metro back home, we can only imagine. We hope his mother enjoyed the food, but we know this journey was a blessing to us all.
Peter Spain is a volunteer with Food For Others.