As myself and a few others have written about in the past, the experience of providing food to patrons becomes much more personal the moment you are able to make a connection, perhaps recognizing yourself or people you know in patrons and their stories. This has been something that I have been continuing to learn and experience through my time working here at the Emergency Food Hamper Program (EFHP). However, earlier this week I experienced something that took this to a new level.
I received a message from two good friends of mine (let’s call them Mike and Jessica for the sake of this post), asking where someone could go to access emergency food. Upon talking with them more, I came to learn that a mutual friend of ours needs food assistance. Mike and Jessica were hoping to get some more information about the process of obtaining an emergency food hamper, in hopes that they could relay the information to our friend.
I can only imagine how anxiety-provoking it is for individuals who have never walked through our doors before to come for the first time; there are so many unknowns. Where do I go when I walk in the door? Will people judge me? Who will I talk to? Will they be friendly? Can I trust them? Will they ask me how much money I make? What if I’m not eligible? How will they know what I need? What if I need too much? Keeping in mind that it may be stressful for this friend of ours, I explained in detail the program and how it worked to Mike and Jessica, including details about what we’ll ask, where to wait, how the program works, and how to get here by car/bus. I knew that Mike and Jessica were going to relay the information to our friend, and then also accompany them to our warehouse to pick up a hamper for the first time. I figured it was the least I could do to try to make their experience in asking for help a bit less stressful.
After explaining all of this, the reality hit me that there is someone that I know who requires emergency food assistance. It made me sad to realize that, but also grateful that there are programs such as this, and friends like Jessica and Mike to walk alongside our friend as vulnerability is acknowledged. It opened my eyes to how unpredictable life’s measures of security (namely finances) are. In the blink of an eye, something could happen (as Melissa illustrated in this post) and the tables could easily be turned, so that it’s me on the other side of the counter. I have had glimpses of this reality before, but through this most recent experience it has become that much closer to home.
I am learning more than ever through my internship here at House of Friendship’s programs that life and its provisions are not to be taken for granted. I am grateful for what I have been blessed with and the situation that I am in, which is so different from many of the people with whom I interact. And I’m grateful, too, for this enlightening experience through which I realized more of how food insecurity and similar issues can literally affect anyone. I’m especially grateful for and find it an honour to extend the hand of friendship whenever and however I can.