Working at the Food Bank is such a great eye opener on what’s really happening underneath all the hub-bub and political wrangling that can so often isolate us. I see and hear all the time things that challenge my beliefs dear to my heart. I also get to see a lot of the great organizations and programs that truly do help people make ends meet. When I hear that programs are rampant with fraud, I wish people would look past the lens of what’s broadcast to see people who really struggle.
Because of what I do, I have friends and others who reach out to me on a regular basis to see where they can go for help. I can also spot situations where I know there is a need for help. Recently, a friend of mine, who I’ll call Jack, went through a very unusual set of circumstances that resulted in him being a single dad of 4 kids. I also have another friend who was extremely injured had not been able to work for 2 years. We’ll call him Matt. I could see that both of my friends needed help, and fortunately, I knew just what they needed.
I reached out to Jack and had a conversation about getting SNAP and we talked about how it could help him with his newly found life. I explained that if he came to our offices we would be able to get him the application and get it submitted. I sensed he felt ashamed as he immediately got a little defensive. Luckily, I was anticipating this. My response was, these programs exist to help people; they are a safety net for your family. I am not going to tell anyone, but I know you need help and I can help you. His response was, “I do not need the help; it’s for other people that actually need it.” I understood and told him to call me when and if he felt like he needed the help. Meanwhile, I’ve been watching him struggle and struggle. I know there will be some people who will read this and think it’s good for him to have to struggle. I agree that working is important, but I also know there are 4 kids who need their only parent to be present.
There I was sitting at my desk typing out a press release when my office phone rang I answered it, and the caller said, “Broc, it's Matt, how are you today?” I was so happy to hear his voice. He had just moved back to town and I was happy to actually be hearing his voice. We talked about his accident, and I told him we have been praying for him for over a year. He had endured countless surgeries and was in constant excruciating pain. We talked and caught up about our lives. Then, I started to sense there was some urgency in his call to me. I stopped the small talk and pleasantries and started in on options to help his family. His condition required constant care, and because of this, his wife was unable to work. He told me the program he was utilizing -- SNAP. He said, “We get about $1.32 per meal which, we both know is impossible. But, we’ve been able to make it work with the small amount of work my wife has been able to do,” he said. “But this month, wow, I can’t even begin to tell you about this month.” They had a car in need of repairs and that took all the money they had plus some credit card charges. He explained that they had made it possible to get food for their young son, but that he and his wife hadn’t eaten in days. My heart sank as I thought, “How could a friend of mine be hungry?” I had just been living my life, and while I am very sensitive to the needs of others, another perk of the job, I had totally spaced and now one of my friends was hungry. I got on the phone to call a couple agencies and managed to get him and his wife some food. I also gave him a list of other agencies. We talked about their family qualifying for WIC, and he said he felt bad about applying. I stopped him right in his tracks and said, “Listen to yourself, Matt. You’re calling me because you need help. Accept it.” I could hear him tearing up on the line, and he admitted his excuse was not at all valid. In the end, he did apply and got approved.
Sometimes, it’s more about swallowing your pride and realizing that you need help. Help is a temporary thing, and I believe and know that help can make the difference in others’ lives. Another takeaway, listen to what’s actually being said by those around you. Be sensitive to help others, and don’t judge the circumstances. Just help!
“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” – Mother Teresa