I’ve been volunteering at a community center for the past few weeks and though nothing out of the unusual occurred during yesterdays shift, one comment between two paid workers of the center left me reeling.
I don’t know if you’re aware but it must be common practice for centers and churches such as these to offer food parcels to those in need. I had never known this prior and it was actually one of the very first things I actually took part in on my first day working there. The lovely lady working aside me on the day shined light on the procedure and generally what you’d give to someone who comes in requesting a food parcel. The basics were that you show compassion and be as generous as possible.
Being compassionate and empathetic is not something I struggle with, especially when the phrase “it’s always darkest before dawn”, seems to be ones life story.
So believe my surprise when I say I was somewhat scolded for being overly generous yesterday to two ladies in their sixties. Well maybe not so much scolded but ‘informed’.
Two ladies wearing matching cotton sweaters and pants both somewhat reminiscent of those who’d seen glory in the late eighties and early nineties came in requesting food parcels for their families. Hair pulled up in matching chignons and thick with hairspray. And both faces caked with foundation laced in powder, eyes bright with blue eyeshadow and lips roughly painted in bright pink lipstick.
An ensemble of sartorial splendor? Definitely not.
Wealth? Who could truly say?
So I went into the churches kitchen pantry and prepared shopping bags for both ladies. Hardly a gourmet selection but I gave as much as possible and wished them all the best and as they left the building the office manager proceeded to tell me how food parcels should be limited to one bag per person and to not serve them should they come back in a fortnight!
Her beef with the ladies was that they arrived in a shiny Honda Accord Euro. And because they drove a ‘flash’ car they were not worthy nor in need of our assistance!
But I felt like I saw the exuberance for what it was worth. All that primping was a vain attempt to blind one from the obvious and asphyxiating odor that drifted to passersby. I firmly believe they are very much in need and have no regrets providing them with a measly two grocery bags full of canned goods.
Goods that will hardly last a week let alone a fortnight or month!
The spat had me comparing my own situation to theirs. Just because they drove a car that is around ten years old now (mind you I am hardly a motoring enthusiast and taking a wild guess here) does not mean they are not facing hard times. Just because ones surface is all bright and shiny, doesn’t mean it’s not necessarily distracting from horrible truths beneath.
I do it myself. Everyday. No one really understands how dire my own situation is at present because I walk out of these walls presentable, carry a Marc Jacobs handbag and a smile on my dial, regardless of if I feel it or not. I look ‘normal’ so no one questions or looks at me twice even though I’m virtually dying inside from stress and uncertainty. They don’t notice that the clothing I wear is last season or older, the one or two holes that usually spot my tops and that I virtually wear the same ensembles day in and out. I carry a bag that I wish I could sell on eBay, yet can’t because of one or two scratches that considerably belittle it’s true worth.
If I were to visit a church and ask for a much needed food parcel, with the preconceptions of those girls I would be shunned away without hesitation all because I looked ‘normal’. Apparently being drug f***ed, donning torn clothing and having greasy hair is a prerequisite for such service. It’s ridiculous and unfair. Judging someone solely on their appearance is never ok because we see what we want to see. We never examine what is before us and allow polished or slick surfaces to make presumptions. If we just looked, really looked at someone square in the eye we would see truth.
God help me should I ever find myself living in my own vehicle.