Who wants to be a food bank client? Anyone? Hello?

midlandfreepress.com – Health
Posted on July 21, 2010.   By JANET ARNETT

Who wants to be a food bank client?

“I only come if I have to.” “I was doing okay for a while but this last month has been rough.” “Others need it more than me.” “We’re desperate or I wouldn’t be here.”

As a rough guess, 99.9 percent of the people who visit The Salvation Army food bank in Midland don’t want to be there. Yes, they need help, often much more help than is available for them. But they ask reluctantly, embarrassed to acknowledge that sometimes poor choices have contributed to their destitution.

It’s natural to look at how we manage, at the choices we make, and think, “If I can do it, why can’t they?” Are they lazy? Are they spending their money on the wrong things? If they can afford to smoke/have a beer/take a taxi/have a cell phone, why can’t they buy their own groceries.

Some of “those people”, we say, have a better cell than ours, and a bigger tv. They feed a big dog or three cats. They have Internet…. Let them buy their own food.

When we donate to a charity we want to know that our donation is going not only to the needy but to the deserving. We don’t smoke/drink/gamble/whatever. Why should we give part of our hard-earned money to those who do?

Why? Because they, too, are entitled to make choices. Because making poor choices shouldn’t mean not eating, or watching one’s children go hungry. Because a little support today makes it easier to make better choices tomorrow.

Donors sometimes wonder about the cheats, people who abuse the system. People with little white–or big black–lies in their stories.

Yes, there are cheats playing the system. In a year at the food bank I’ve met two. Maybe 3, tops. There are consequences for the cheats when they are identified.

The others? They’re people who are trying to keep the family together, to maintain some dignity for their kids, to be able to stay at a level where they can job hunt, to keep putting one foot ahead of the other for another day.

To give is very satisfying. It feels good. To receive, not so much.

Janet Arnett can be reached at arnett@ca.inter.net.

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