I'm of the opinion that everyone needs help sometimes and that we are all just one tragedy away from standing in line at a food bank or the welfare office.
I once told a volunteer at the Sechelt Food Bank that I'd write about my experience with them in the first person to encourage people to give to this program. I didn't have the courage until now.
As I pulled up to the Sechelt Food Bank, my stomach started to tighten and tears welled in my eyes. I parked the car, took a deep breath and reassured myself. "You need this," I said.
I surveyed the people already in line at the food bank. An elderly couple, a single man and woman, a lady with her son and a colourful man on a bicycle. They didn't look any different from me, and I hoped they'd accept me, not ask me questions about who I was or why I was there.
Thankfully they didn't ask me anything, and we proceeded to chat about the state of the world as we waited for the red van carrying vegetables to arrive.
At the time, my husband and I had been slapped with some expensive bills we didn't expect, and after surveying our bank account, I realized we wouldn't have any money for food for a week or two. I knew the food bank was there for just such an occasion, but it still hurt my pride to go.
The volunteers at the food bank were lovely. Although the vegetable delivery was late, the volunteers made every effort to make us comfortable while we waited in line. First they passed out coffee, then cookies, then freezies for the kids. They were cheerful and sweet, and I never felt judged, which was my main concern. When the red van arrived, we helped unload it - boxes of carrots, potatoes and apples. Soon we were filing inside to fill our bags with bread, baked goodies, frozen and fresh vegetables, fruit, butter, powdered milk, flour, oats, hamburger, soups and even herbs.
The volunteer who took me through the food line could tell I was nervous. She gently encouraged me to take "my share" of bread and buns and even pastries. She took me past one large bare table explaining, "There is usually something there too," and then to the final room where a large brown bag waited with canned and fresh food.
By the end of the line I could make occasional eye contact with volunteers without fighting back tears, and I realized they knew. They knew that people sometimes need help and it's hard to ask. They knew that I was very thankful, and they knew that when I could, I'd give back.
As I left with my three bags of food, I noticed the line was steadily growing. I thought about the empty table and the stories I've written before urging the public to give to this volunteer group that has no steady source of funding and a growing list of people needing their services.
I thought, I should write about this, so people can see the need and be encouraged to give.
To many of us it's just a can of food that gathers dust in the back of our cupboard, but to those who can't afford it, a free can of food means hope.
The gift got me through a tough time, and now that I've experienced the need, I'll never forget to give.