It was a Saturday afternoon. And the ever present (and most welcome) early signs of spring had awakened something in not only the earth with its melting snow, but within people. A usual lazy Saturday was flickered with specks of excitement as people followed their usual routine with less clothes and a little more sun. But for me it wasn’t a lazy Saturday. On March 7th, I had a day off from my usual grueling weekend job. I would lie if I said I wasn’t a little worried driving to All Saints. My main purpose for volunteering was for the sake of an article, this article, but at the same time I had built up a passion to showcase the food pantry for a very personal reason. A reason that unleashed butterflies in my stomach with every red light I encountered.
I eagerly and unsuccessfully tried to nudge this big reason to the very back of my mind. So, instead of trying to face these feelings I flooded my mind with questions relating to my article. How should I take notes? Can I interview Bonnie, Craig, and volunteers as we go? Should I volunteer and just dive in? Will I be in everyone’s way? And once again, the silly strings of anxiousness overruled in my mind. How should I act around the people coming to the food pantry for help? What should I say to them? How should I treat them? Will they mind if I take notes? Will they mind that I’m there? COMPOSE YOURSELF! I remember trying to think to myself. No matter what happened, I promised myself I would stay composed because my worry above anything else was to have me burst into tears.
By this point you may be asking yourself, or should I say, you may be thinking to yourselves, “How dare she feel uncomfortable! They are people just like us!” And my answer to that is yes, in fact they are a little too like me. I was passionate and nervous to volunteer with the food pantry because my family and I have had to reach out to a food pantry for assistance numerous times in my life. I have no shame in this honesty, and I debated on how candid I would be in this article. But I decided that no one would understand the power of giving, volunteering, and empathy without a little brutal honesty. The minute I arrived and saw people starting to line up my eyes began to sting. In the faces of these men and women I saw my mom and dad. In the faces of the children, I saw my brother’s, and my own. I wanted to reach out to each and every single one and hug them until my arms ached. I wanted to tell them it was going to be all right. I wanted to tell them I knew what it was like. I wanted to tell them they weren’t alone, they were loved. But most importantly, I wanted to go home and kiss my parents loving face and thank them again and again.
The good thing was that this emotional turmoil came to an abrupt end as soon as I walked through those doors. Bonnie and Craig were all alone and a third set of hands was a welcome sight for both. The food pantry and clothing closet is open 1-3pm, but they must have been among the fastest couple of hours of my life. I awkwardly hesitated when 3 o’clock rolled in and Bonnie and Craig dismantled the area and locked up. I could not believe it was time to go. My day was spent stocking, dismantling boxes, tidying up shelves, and keeping an eye on the flow of prepared boxes to keep up with supply. While Bonnie managed the frontline with a smile and warm persona, Craig was a speed demon in the back. During the time it took me to straighten up a shelf of soup, he prepared at least four boxes. While I dismantled beaten up grocery boxes, I’d turn around and he was gone with a giant stack ready to be recycled. They never stopped moving, but they didn’t seem to mind. They expressed their love for the ministry and its mission, and their interaction with guests said it all.
“When we first start, we used to have a lot of people volunteering but their wasn’t much to keep everyone busy,” Craig said, “but now that we have so much to do, we don’t have enough help.” I gasped when Bonnie told me All Saints food pantry is the fifth largest in the QC.
“Yep, we’re All Saints, we’re small but mighty,” she said. In a month, the food pantry serves hundreds of people. On the Saturday I volunteered, they served about 22 boxes and they considered that to be a pretty slow day. Let’s just say on Sunday I felt like someone had beaten me up with a baseball bat.
Volunteering for the food pantry was challenging. It’s hard to watch people struggle, and it’s even harder to face issues such as hunger in person. Taking the time to become aware and surround yourself in an issue like hunger by actively advocating or what have you, is incredibly eye-opening but also magical. For me, the magic lied within people who came to get assistance but also brought donations they wished to give the clothing closet. The magic lied within the stories Bonnie and Craig shared about regulars that visited the food pantry who were eager to participate and volunteer themselves. It was these incredible gestures of generosity and selflessness that gives one hope that one day the world may truly be a better place.
But my favorite story, and the most magical of all, was a story that immediately transported me to my childhood. It was a story of Barb Johnson, and a cake she held aside waiting to gift a child. And the recipient of this cake exclaimed with wide eyes, “How did you know it was my birthday?” to which Barb replied without hesitation, “God told me.” It was the perfect answer to a perfect coincidence. My memories transported me to a Christmas when I was only about six or seven years old. That Christmas involves a long story, but what I can say is that till this day we are convinced we were visited by angels because we knew God had sent these people into our lives. On this Saturday I went home tired, but I went home uplifted knowing I’d always been surrounded by God’s love.