But the saying came to mind as I was busy doing chores that I normally avoid so that I could delay my first visit to the food bank. Although the result of my efforts would mean I’d have food to feed my daughter for the week, the journey itself and all that it stood for certainly challenged my desire to follow through.
One of the only smart things I did that day was to call to ask if I needed to bring my own bags. If I remember to, I am one of those people who takes cloth bags or a knapsack grocery shopping. Not only is it better for the environment, but it’s generally easier to carry food in sturdy bags rather than plastic bags.
The person who answered the phone said that many people bring their own bags, but that yes, they did provide bags. Against my better judgement, I decided not to bring my own bags. So off I set for the bus. Which I missed by a minute. In the pouring rain. But at least I had remembered to bring my umbrella.
Like the Salvation Army, each food bank depot can only be visited twice a year or once every 6-months. Food banks do have weekly depots scattered throughout each community, but the combination of being overweight and standing in a food lineup was something I had yet to overcome and so to the main depot I went.
The depot for Vancouver is located in an industrial area on the border between East Vancouver and the Downtown Eastside. It’s a solid 3-blocks from the bus stop bordering a park with less-than-desirable activities occurring at night. The building itself is unassuming and reminded me of an old post office.
Getting off the bus with three other people, one of whom was pulling a suitcase, I knew my decision to not bring my own bags had been a mistake. I was relieved to see other people, as I was unsure of the process. My Google street-view research hadn’t shown which door to enter. As I got closer, a sporadic stream of people, mostly women my age, came out of the food bank loaded with obviously heavy cloth bags.
Upon entering, it did initially feel like a bank of sorts. There was a small waiting area and a sign on a chair (acting as a line) asking people to respect others’ privacy. To the left, there were three baskets and a note underneath offering to take 1 drink and 1 snack per person. The snack options were apples or a variety of granola and cereal bars. At first I didn’t take anything and then finally I grabbed a water and a granola bar. Who was I kidding? I was at the food bank because I needed food.
Ten minutes later, I was trying to figure out how I was going to carry two heavily-loaded paper bags (the kind with the entwined string handles), a plastic bag full of onions, potatoes, beets and apples and my umbrella. It was still raining heavily. I opted to leave the plastic bag behind, dropped my wet umbrella into one of the bags and headed back to the bus stop. Where I missed the bus by seconds.
As I was getting off the bus, I was thinking how horrible it would be if one of the bags broke. And guess what? That’s exactly what happened. Waiting to cross the road and just 3-blocks from my house, the paper bag that had my wet umbrella in it broke open from the bottom. Cans rolled in all directions.
While people waiting to cross the road in both directions stared yet did not offer to help, I frantically sifted through my options. Wasn’t it humiliating enough that I had to go to the food bank? Apparently not. The phrase “suck it up, buttercup” popped into my head again. I somehow managed to scoop up the bag and made it to the bus stop I’d just got off at. It was 2:48pm.
If I’d had my daughter with me, she could have run across the street to the gas station on the corner to get some plastic bags or even home to pick up some cloth bags. But she was at school. Thankfully, she always calls me as she’s leaving, so I was able to get her to come to the bus stop with some bags and we made it home just an hour after my debaucle.
I don’t know how people make it through life without a sense of humour. Honestly, I think that’s what keeps me going most of the time. That, and my daughter. That, and my daughter and the right to lead a life of dignity regardless of whether I went to the grocery store or the food bank to feed my family for the week.