Yesterday as we went into the grocery store the police were there. They were outside the store at a table and they had parked a huge cruiser of some kind in front of the store. Interestingly, they parked it exactly between the ramp up in and the ramp down out. That impressed me. They were doing a food drive saying that they wanted to fill the cruiser to the brim with food for the food bank.
I pushed past them and returned their hello as I did so. Immediately inside the store they had pre-bundled bags of food in various price levels. This store always does this and we’ve bought them before and the have the three p’s of poverty in the sack. Peanut butter, Pasta and Pasta Sauce. I pushed on into the store as Joe went to get a cart. I turned to face the door and wait for him, I saw him pick up a couple of bags and I waved at him to put them back. I had had a flash of memory and I wanted to do something different. He returned the bags to the shelf and came in with a question on his face.
“Do you remember,” I asked him, “when we were in San Francisco earlier this year, in our usual grocery store?” We had gone there to pick up some groceries, it’s in an area of town known for the obvious homelessness and poverty of some of those in the area. Joe had nodded in response to my question. “Do you remember what they locked up and what they told us about it?” We had gone to buy some shaving cream and found that the whole aisle of personal hygiene products were under lock and key.
This store had a whole aisle stuffed full of booze, but it was the deodorants, the shampoos, the feminine hygiene products that were under lock and key. When we asked why this stuff was locked up we were told that these were the most often stolen by people in need. They wanted them for when they were trying to get a job or trying to get clean or trying to keep their kids clean. This was a revelation to me.
So, we didn’t buy the prepackaged stuff that would guarantee that only a few of the food back shelves would be full. We hit the hygiene aisle hard. Tooth brushes and tooth paste, deodorants, body washes, shampoos, toilet paper and soap all flew into the cart. Then we went for the feminine hygiene products and stood there, two gay men, who have never bought these in our lives, looking at a wall of choices and having no idea where to start with choosing. In other circumstances when I need to make a decision, I ask people. I felt that stopping a woman who was shopping and asking her to explain to us what might be the best choice for an anonymous recipient was a tad inappropriate. So, we picked on that we both agreed the commercials for assured us that, while using, they could ride and bike and wear a white bathing suit. After that we bought a bag of dog food and a bag of cat food, people do have pets. Finally, the only food we bought was three huge boxes of cereal. Family economy size suckers that looked like they’d feed a family of six for a millennium.
When we were done we did our own shopping and then headed to the check out. There had been lots of sales in the store that day so our donation dollars had gone a long way. We sorted our groceries into our cloth bags and the donation stuff into plastic bags that we could hand over. There were 7 bags, the toilet paper and the cereal taking a number of bags.
We went back out to the police and by then they were surrounded by the pre-packaged bags. We needed their help in getting the stuff out of the bag and keeping everything sorted. I told them about what had happened in San Francisco and why they were picking up the stuff they were picking up. They knew, of course, of the need for these things.
They thanked us.
We thanked them for doing the drive and helping us to remember this part of the holidays.
We got in the car and felt good, we’d done something completely different than we’d ever done before and we did it because we paid attention to what we learned this year. We knew that the stuff we bought would be appreciated.
I am NOT saying, “Don’t buy food for the food bank.” I am also NOT saying, “Don’t buy the pre-packaged bags.” Of course food is the major part of what FOOD banks need. And pre-packaged bags are easy and convenient. I’m just suggesting that when you do buy for the food bank, maybe throw in some deodorant and shampoo, or some feminine hygiene products, or anything really that someone may not be able to buy because they spend all their resources on food or housing. Poverty takes a toll on everything.
We’d had fun doing the shopping, it felt like Christmas, and we felt like we’d taken a key to that locked up stuff in the store that we’d gone into and said, “go head, grab what you need.”
That’s an awesome thing to be able to do.