This summer my Wednesday afternoon volunteering at the Bond Hill Pantry became irregular due to travel and other commitments, and I was glad to return yesterday. I pretty much give the same spiel each time I accompany a client through the pantry. “You have three choices in vegetables, which are both of these shelving units. There are different items in each . . .”
Then we proceed through grains, home care, non-meat protein, fruit, and “combo” before coming to the personal care section. With my first client yesterday, as usual I said, “This bag has toilet paper and soap, and you can choose one additional item – shampoo, deodorant, lotion, shaving supplies, or toothpaste.” Suddenly I really heard what I was saying as though for the first time. You have one selection among these ordinary products. Even though people shave, brush teeth, wash hair, and wear deodorant daily, choose only one form of hygiene. A sobering reminder yet again of how need outstrips resources.
Later I went through with a mom who is a regular patron and a particularly warm and dignified person. Two of her children had come along, boys about 10 and 12 years old. They had never been to the pantry before, and the older one was clearly fascinated. Girls about his age were staffing the dessert table; as we turned from there to the main shelves he immediately wanted to know, “How old do you have to be to work here?” I explained that young people often volunteer with their parents or other adults, and he could speak to the coordinators if he is interested. As we continued on, this young man marveled at the shelves and pointed to different items, at one point exclaiming, “This is like a little store!”
Is the glass half full or half empty? Yes!