Saturday, December 22, 2012

Not the End of the World

It's been a really good week. Obviously the biggest development is that the world didn't end. Score. I knew it wouldn't, at least not now and not like this, but it sure was fun to fantasize about last meals and bomb shelters and hoarding canned goods. Maybe next year. Even though I didn't truly believe the hype, I behaved as it was the end, although I guess I do that every day, and sure did enjoy myself in the process. I made tamales and love and got thoughtful gifts in the mail and read fantastic books and did puzzles and drank vodka and sent out holiday cards and care packages. The best part of the week was getting a chance to volunteer with my co-workers at a food bank. It was an amazing experience for me.

When my husband and I met in 2005 we were both a mess financially. He was a poor immigrant living with countless roomates and no documents that would allow him to make a decent living. I was a poor American, recovering from a drug addiction and had been living in my car for a while before finally securing a job at a call center and, subsequently, an apartment to call home. We struggled for quite a while and I vividly remember a time when we couldn't always afford to feed ourselves. I remember a particular day when I finally swallowed my pride and went to a local food bank.

I was embarassed. Embarassed that I had to ride around on the city bus with a food bank box, embarassed that I couldn't take care of myself and above all, embarassed of the addiction that had brought me to that point. We feasted that evening. Government cheese, expired bread and canned peas. I found work shortly after that desperate day but never forgot how much the program had helped me. While we were sorting through canned goods on Thursday, I quietly recalled that desperation and realized how blessed I am that it hasn't returned.

The West Texas Food Bank is seriously short handed. I can imagine that most similar organizations have the same struggle. They have so much work to do and close to no one available for that work considering their limited funds. This location only has one full time worker and one part time worker sorting through the canned good donations. That may sound sufficient but we were literally wading in cans and I cannot imagine doing that on a daily basis. It was physically demanding in a weird Mexican maquila sense because it required doing the same simple activity over and over. I have never understood my husband's struggle on la linea more than I did after an hour of sorting through cans today. I'm sure I still don't get it.

My heart literally broke when I found out that we had to throw away any can that was dented along the edges. They told us that a can with a dent along the edge could be contaminated and because said contamination could lead to people getting sick, it was better to just toss it. "When in doubt, throw it out," we were told. I felt physically sick with the amount of food we were putting in the trash but USDA law is USDA law. I wondered how many Juarenses we could have fed with the food that we got rid of. How many would give their right pinky finger for just a couple of those dented cans? That was the hardest part for me. But at the end of the day, I was happy that we were able to help and happy that my co-workers were willing to help. It takes a special breed to give back with gusto. I love the spirit of the season and wish we (myself included) could all have the same spirit year round.

I hope everyone else is enjoying their December, and all that it means, as much as I am. I have been reminded to give thanks, love big and act as if each and every day were your last day on Earth. I hope that everyone else has had the opportunity to do the same.

1 comment:

  1. So true, I had a similar experience volunteering at a food bank last year.

    Just came across your blog after hearing the TAL show ( much belated). I love this blog!! love your drive, determination to live a good life and your humanity. You have hit upon describing a very human existence that I sometimes feel is hard to convey. Thanks for all you share and for letting us take a peek into your experience on this world!