I rode my big beautiful bike today. It is the first time I officially went shopping since we moved here. I went to two stores. Trader Joes to get greens and coconut creamer for my coffee. I ended up with peppers onions and oranges as well. As I was headed out I saw a woman with a sign that said she had lost her job and had three children. She had three beautiful little girls with her.
I remember back when I lost my job and those safety nets that are supposed to help seemed to have huge holes in them. Holes that I seemed to slip through. At one point I ended up going to the food bank and borrowed a friend’s utility bill to go twice in a month. She would never have stooped to going to the food bank, I think she had trauma from childhood experiences. The deal was that I would go and she would get to pick out some stuff that she might need and I got the rest. I also remember being so desperate that I asked friends to clean out their cabinets and freezers to help feed my kids.
What people do not understand is when you have children and life deals you a blow it is beyond devastating. Your ego is already bruised but your faith also waivers. You wonder how God could do this to you? What did you do that deserves to have your children starve or sleep on stoops? In the end this on top of many other blows my faith disintegrated. I am actually happier now that I know I can only rely on myself and the kindness of others. In my worst moments, my friends held me up. The system failed me, God seemed to fail me, but my friends and my own tenacity carried me through. Some might think that this is indicative of God helping me, but this ultimately just hardened me. But this is not about my lack of faith.
This is about my understanding what it is like to be desperate with children to support. Scared and ultimately ready to give up. As I left I pulled up to her and told her I had no money, but I just bought a bag of oranges. I gave them all oranges an they all gladly accepted. This is when you know the need is genuine. When accepting a small amount of food brings on a huge feeling of gratitude. Had she been there when I had arrived I would have grabbed other nibbles for them, but I was in the way of traffic and did not think about it until I had left.
It is in those small moments that your heart breaks and you find your humanity, or you harden yourself and you just walk on by. In the end I did it out of the memory of the pain from my past. Knowing that someone saw your humanity, they cared enough to stop and did not just walk on by. I typically only offer food to those I see on the street, they often take it, some will just give me a dirty look, and those are the ones not really ready to receive help.