Thursday, November 1, 2007

Horn of Plenty

In my lifetime, I have on more than one occasion been the recipient of a holiday "food basket". You know the kind...the ones that are given to poor, down on their luck families so that they can have a good holiday.

We are now into the season where people start thinking about sharing some of their bounty with their neighbors so I thought I would talk about what it's like on the receiving end.

Truthfully? It's not all that great. Oh, I know that I should be grateful for the total strangers that sacrifice part of their hard earned money or goods to send some canned goods to school or church for the food drive. Somewhere within me a small voice tells me to be quiet and say, "Thank you!"

But I don't think I'm going to listen to that voice.

I'm going to tell you what it's like to receive six cans of vegetables, none of them the same, three past their expiration dates. One can is beets. Another is squash. And a third is lima beans. One of the cans is so dented the can opener won't work on it. And one can is a mystery because the label's missing.

Then there's the small box of cornbread with weevils in it. Uh-hmmm. Two boxes of pudding--one instant, one cooked. Three packages of crushed cookies because they were packed on the bottom. Six eggs, two of them cracked. Powdered milk. A can of pumpkin with none of the ingredients to make the pie. A bag of fruit, most of it too rotten to use...

Ah, but the poor should be grateful that the "haves" thought about them. Why?

My friends, let me ask you something. If you don't want to eat what's in those cans why would you think someone else would? If that cornbread mix has been in your pantry so long that bugs have taken up residence, then throw it away instead of sending it to my house so I have to put it in my trash.

Let me tell you how my husband and I deal with the food basket issue. We decide how much we can do without. Then we go shopping.

Four families? Then we provide four complete meals. Turkey breast or ham, dressing, instant mashed potatoes, two vegetables, cake mix, frosting, packaged rolls, canned milk, spices, paper towels, trash bags, zippered storage bags, aluminum foil, and disposable aluminum pans. If it was an especially good year, we add a small plant for a centerpiece. If it's a Christmas basket, we try to add an ornament for each family member. Depending on the circumstances, there might be a gift for each of the kids.

Everything goes in a box and is delivered personally. There is nothing more humiliating than to show up at the school or church to pick up a holiday food basket. Oh, you go because you won't let your children do without for the sake of your pride. But it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It doesn't matter why you need the food. It could be the best reason in the world, but there is still that sense of failure when you have to admit that you can't feed yourself.

Personal delivery takes some of that feeling away because it's a gift, one-on-one with a face and a name. If you know the identity of that person, you know who to thank. And when you know exactly who to thank, you do that--in writing.

Next year when things are better, you find someone to help out. That's what it should be, folks. Person to person, family to family offering a helping hand because one way or another, we're all going to need it some day. Sharing your blessings is the best way to thank the Creator for what you have. Give with joy, generosity, and cheerfulness.


Ooooh, Kelly has the Saga today. Need I say more? Of course, not. Go at once to and then immediately jump over to Amarinda's blog where she is dispensing Australian wisdom at Blessings on your day!


  1. As always, you are a velvet covered brick banging sense into people. I also believe if you do not know what to give and you can manage a spare $10 ot $20 or whatever then give it to someone/an organizaton who does - and don't just do it becasue it's xmas and you are guilted into it. Do it because you want to. Amarinda sermon over...

  2. This is why I try to buy good stuff when shopping for our food pantry. Sure--buying cheap stuff might allow me to donate more, but it doesn't usually work that way. I don't budget my gifts--I just get what I think people will need and enjoy.

    Our food pantry also accepts grocery store gift cards--which I'm of two minds about. At least if I'm buying the groceries, I know my money is being spent on baby formula, Cheerios, and fruit. With a gift card passed out, it's as likely to be Hostess cupcakes and and Tooth Rotters.

  3. I don't know if they do this down here or not, but our Kroger Stores up north always had pre-wrapped food items with the dollar amount on them. All you had to do was grab a sack and add it to your cart, depending if you wanted to spend $5, $10, $20, or by multiple bags. We always added a $5 or $10 to our order, and then placed it in the donation box by the door.

    And yes, I've been on the receiving end as well...and the kids ended up with some clothing they turned up their noses at. The clothes ended up at GoodWill the next summer...I told the kids it was 'the thought that counted' and that Santa was a bit strapped that winter. That changed their attitude PDQ...

  4. Been there with unlabled dog food as my dinner option. I was heartbroken and nothing quite brought home our circumstances like that "gift". I always felt the haves, as you put it, were donating their offal and I was meant to simper. I've been on the good side of that too, with the VFW brought an entire meal to my door. It was a surprise and it was needed and I cried when they left. I never cry but it touched me so deeply that I could make a traditional dinner for my family and two babies. I will NEVER forget the VFW for that kindness.

  5. We always put in a $10 card so they can pick up margarine, eggs, and milk if they want to. But I'm with you, Elissa. I worry about money going on beer or chips.

    And Kelly, I've been on the receiving end for some wonderful gifts, too. But I have to say that when you're really, really hungry and you open a package and find it inedible because it's buggy or rotten, that just bites.