“I’ve never done anything like this. I don’t really know how it works. I’ve been standing in line for a few hours now, and it’s barely starting to move. I’m not complaining. It’s a blessing to be here. I’ll wait all day if I have to because this virus has left me with no other choice, but what happens if they run out of food?
They told us to be here this morning at 10, so I got here at 8. That’s what they teach you in the military: ‘Be punctual. Take personal responsibility.’ I haven’t been able to sleep much lately anyway with the way my mind keeps running, so I thought I’d beat the crowds.
It sounds like they’re giving us some instructions. I think they’re starting to call people up. Hold on. I better ask somebody—‘Excuse me, sir? I couldn’t hear. Did they say anything? Do they have enough?’
OK. They’re telling us we’ll all walk away with food. They’re saying to be patient, because I think this is double or triple their normal crowd. Everyone is six-feet apart. A few people brought chairs to sit on, and some are carrying empty shopping bags. Was I supposed to bring something? I didn’t know how to prepare. Do they want you to show ID or tell them why you’re in need?
I tried my best to avoid this. It’s not that I’m ashamed of it—not really. I’ve lived in some off-the-grid-type places, and I’m used to managing without savings, but there’s no faking it when you don’t have enough food to eat. That’s basic need. That’s survival.
I don’t mean to sound dramatic. Nobody’s been starving. I don’t want to make it out to be worse than it is. We still have canned beans at the house, rice, a few leftovers in the fridge. My whole family got laid off the same week. We went from a three-income household to nothing.
I did 20 years in the Coast Guard, and my body is falling apart. I’ve got bad arthritis, and I’m worried about getting sick. I wear my mask everywhere. I try to stay inside. My wife and I have been hoping to get unemployment, but the website shuts down and there’s no way to get through on the phone. We had a little savings but now that’s gone. I tried selling off some of my sports memorabilia, but anybody who might be interested is also laid off. What can I do to come up with a few dollars?
A few people are walking back out of the pantry area now. They’re carrying bags and boxes. This must be the 7 a.m. crowd. I see cauliflower, lots of potatoes and bread. The line is moving again. I’ve been here all morning but I’m getting close. They’re telling the people in front of me to wait and they’ll bring out their food. This is a new experience that I’m living through, and it’s humbled me.
We’re lucky to live in this country. The bottom can fall out of your life, and there are people ready to help you out and give you something. I’m at the front. They’re coming toward me with a full cart, and it’s got three bags and one box. ‘Wow. Thank you. Thank you. God Bless.’
This is a lot. I’ve got bananas, blueberries, lettuce, and fresh yellow peaches. In another bag is protein, vegetables and enough bread for me to share with the neighbors. They even gave me a mango and a big pineapple. They just hand you the food and it’s yours to take to the car—no guilt, no questions. They thanked me for coming. Can you believe that?”
Story submitted by Lighthouse of San Fernando