Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Still Eating My Heart Out


There comes a point where you say, “I’ve got enough stuff.”  So you go about getting rid of years worth of collected stuff, which was something you definitely had to have until, well, you didn’t.  Maybe sell some, give some away, throws some in the trash.  And then, that next gift-giving occasion comes around and guess what?  YOU GOT MORE STUFF!

It took a while, but we convinced most of the people in the extended family that, for any celebration, a gift should ONLY be given if you saw it somewhere and instantly thought, “Such and such just HAS to have that!”  If you don’t have that perfect gift in mind, give that money to charity.  Any charity, yours, mine, everybody has needs these days.  My only problem was, our giving was scattershot.  We were sending small amounts to all of these charities, but not enough dough to make any sort of difference.

That changed for me late in 2018.  I read about food insecurity, a term I’d never seen or heard before.  An article featuring Swoop’s Food Pantry discussed how close some college students are to homelessness.  Some DO live in their cars and many do not know where there next meal will come from.  Or if there will be one.  The pantry is located on the campus of Eastern Michigan University, my alma mater, so I decided I wanted to help out.  At Christmas, I asked a couple of people for grocery gift cards and they came through, to the tune of about $250.

Lucy came in for a family visit early in 2019, so I selected her to go buy the groceries with me.  She inherited her Yankee thrift from her mother, undoubtedly able to pinch a penny and make old Abe SCREAM.  I knew she would find the good deals when I didn’t and I was not wrong.  Even stretching it out with pro-grade frugality, boxes and bags full of groceries…it barely filled the back seat of my truck. 

A friendly staff helped us bring in the food at Swoop’s.  It was only a couple of loads, stacked up on a heavy-duty cart, but it was a nice moment anyway.  Lucy had been pressing me to get more involved and privately I knew I wasn’t doing all I could to practice what I preach.  On her advice I had made a simple plan and followed through.  Mission accomplished!

“Would you like to come inside and look around?”  We looked at each other and shrugged.  We didn’t know they offered entertainment.  We decided to take the nickel tour.  They don’t have much more than a glorified walk-in closet, but they are very proud of their operation.  I got a background on their mission, filled out some paperwork for deductions that are no longer allowed and prepared to leave.  The room was, as I stated, small.  There was a line of students waiting to get in as we found the exit.

I had my hand on the door but hadn’t yet pushed the bar.  I took one more look behind me and saw one of the volunteers shelving the food we had just brought in on carts.  It was going back out, onesie-twosie, as fast as they could shelve it, to these hungry kids.  I quickly became sad and then very angry.  The richest damned country in the world and kids are going hungry in college.  Do you remember being excited about Corn Flakes?  Ever?  I’ve seen it.

Then COVID hit.  I knew many of the college students would lose their jobs and that some wouldn’t be able to go home because of a quarantine.  You might say I was radicalized, in an old man sort of way.

As soon as I heard that there were stimulus checks going out, I pounced. My wife and I both kept our jobs during the pandemic and many of our friends, having similar seniority at work had remained financially safe.  So I decided to ask everybody for a hundred bucks.  You got twelve hundred?  Gimme a hundred.  For the kids.  Where did I get the ass to do that?  Who did I think I was?  At that moment, I wasn’t sure.  Two weeks later, I was the guy walking into Swoop’s with more than $1,000 in my hand, that’s who I was. That is something I learned from Dan...sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

Kath headed up an effort to have box lunches for people who work on the COVID floors at St Joseph’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.  She raised the money through the same network of friends and family and supplied a meal for nursing and maintenance workers on two different shifts, their meals delivered hot by DiBella’s. Later in the year, we raised a bit more to bridge Swoop’s to Christmas, when they tend to be remembered more for holiday giving.

Going forward, I have a plan to put up a show on youtube as a fundraiser.  The opening night is what you publicize and when you solicit the donations, but the video would remain online in perpetuity as a fundraiser for Swoop’s.  I will need a lot of help with that.  The board at Swoop’s is on board with us and I have enlisted Brian Cox to direct. 

But until then, I am asking you one more time to help Swoop’s.  The stuff from Christmas is gone now and the check the kids got in the mail from Grandma has already be spent.  Stimulus is out there again so I am AGAIN going to ask for one hundred dollars.  For those of us that are trying to decide between beef and chicken for dinner…there are kids out there deciding between a heat bill and a sack of groceries.

Hey, I get it. Everybody’s got their hand out and if you’ve got your own cause, God love ya.  What I have learned is most everybody wants to help, if only they could figure out a way.  Here’s my way…put my dough together with other folks.  Make it count.  Make a major difference.  Let me walk into the Swoop’s office with $1,000 again.  Send me a check.  Let's support the kids until this damned pandemic is over.

Gimme a hundred.  You won’t believe how good it makes your next meal taste.

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