So, I’m almost half-way through this SNAP Challenge and I am having a hard time keeping my mind off of food. It consumes most of my thoughts and I have to work at finding stuff to do that will keep my mind focused on other things. I remember being in this position over 30 years ago as a very young man – I didn’t miss it. Needing help to get by can make you feel alone and very moody. On top of all this, it’s the weekend. What made this weekend particularly challenging was the fact that this was the first weekend home visit from my youngest child who is now in college. A big part of my culture and upbringing has always been that food was synonymous with celebration. Here I was in the middle of the SNAP Challenge having shopped for one on a very limited, shoestring budget. Additionally, I was invited to a barbecue hosted by friends. Again, my upbringing was such that you never accepted an invitation to someone’s table without bringing something to share. It’s just what you did. The weekend had me peeling back another layer to food insecurity only to find its three wicked sisters of isolation, inadequacy and despair.
Then, this happened: My friends and family rallied together to plan a very impromptu family night. They very unselfishly prepared foods to share and convened at my home so that we could celebrate the bounty of ourselves. We ate, we laughed and we played long into the night. I regrettably begged off the barbecue, but was so grateful for this family gathering. This was the first time in three days when I didn’t feel like food insecurity was a big yoke around my neck. I started out feeling very small because I had little to nothing to share, but ended up feeling almost obscenely wealthy to be a part of such a loving and compassionate group who didn’t care what I brought to the table – only that I could “be” at the table.
My lesson on Day 3, is that food insecurity and reliance on SNAP is really all about your health: your financial health, your physical health and your psychological health. It’s one thing to have nothing in a bank account, but you better have something in your self-esteem account if you don’t want your struggles to consume you. I stated from the beginning that I wanted to do this to raise awareness, but this whole exercise has also been a self-evaluation and discovery of myself and my place in the world. There is a stigma that society forces upon you when you are down and out. You can let it define you or use it as fuel to blaze a new trail to self-sufficiency. Moreover, if all you ever do is focus on your own day-in-the-life, you can lose sight of where you’ve come from and how others in your community have their own challenges to deal with. Moving through life with blinders on limits your ability to be a part of the solution. There are people in your neighborhood, in your place of employment, in your church and in all of your extended circles that are food insecure. Sometimes a small gesture or an invite to your table is all it takes to keep someone’s hope alive. Give a little, get alot. We’re all in this together.
Tomorrow is another day. Day 3 was a much needed shot in the arm to make the rest of this challenge a little more bearable.