Monday was Canada Day. Today is Independence Day in the United States. It's been a week of celebrations, but also great hardships. The west coast is seeing horrible heat and fires. Here in New York there has been some ugly flooding; one woman nearby was swept away in her mobile and drowned. Many lucky survivors have still lost their homes.
Yesterday, for no discernible reason, I started gathering food in a box that my family wasn't using. I do this every few months; I started while I was on the phone checking up on my grandmother, picking things up with my spare hand. I gathered pasta and cans of ravioli my family lost the taste for, bottles of cranberry juice leftover from holidays, canned peaches nobody wound up eating. The items that linger in too many households that don't realize how well they're doing. Maybe I did this because I wasn't always this privileged. But before I ran out for errands, I called the local library, which forwarded me to the Methodist church on the corner of so-and-such. The librarian then pulled me back onto the line to talk about how, when her son had lived in Alaska, his local food pantry had saved his life.
It took me two minutes out of my way in-between errands to hit the church. I drove around back, spying two men who were patching the rear wall. The weather had hit here, too, I presumed. They looked nervous when I asked if this was the food pantry. When I pulled out the box, one of them ran over to hold the door for me. I followed me inside, asking if this was from the church at the next county over. It'd been a while since I'd seen someone's eyes bulge. His did when I told them this was just from my family.
The way he ogled my box suggested he was probably going to rely on some of that tonight. He shook my hand three times, and we exchanged names. He wanted the head of the pantry to call and thank me. We stood by the road for a while, talking about camping sites and the local flooding. He was a charming man, only confused as to where I'd come from.
There were times when I desperately needed the capricious kindness of strangers. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you've probably read enough about that. It's left me a little more willing to stump for people in need, be they shooting victims or just a girl who desperately deserves a break.
When I was a child, imagining the homeless scared me so much that I tried to imagine they didn't exist. I now suspect that's a blindness most people invest in. I'm not passing judgment about this because judging someone's irrational hang-ups is both cruel and futile. I don't believe most people need to be shamed on something like this. For most, I think looking it in the face will do.
I appreciate that some people don't trust the Red Cross or disagree with the homophobia in the Salvation Army, but when I see a post like "The Ten Worst Charities in America," I get physically ill. It starts to look too much like people covering their own myopia and greed in a simplified solution of arbitrary distrust. If you don't like the Red Cross or Salvation Army, that's fine, but it's no excuse to ignore every food pantry, every blood drive, every soup kitchen and disaster relief org and IndieGogo for a needy cause.
I don't like to proselytize on here often, and I'll shut up in three sentences. Just, please, if you don't do anything, look your reasons in the face. And if you have no reason, that's a perfectly good reason to help a little.
Thanks for reading, enjoy the fireworks tonight, and for the love of God, appreciate what you have.