Sunday, May 8, 2011

Giving Back

I have spent the vast majority of my life in rural Virginia, and watched as the community instantly rallies in time of need. Fire, tornado, flood, auto accident, sickness, any crisis brings prompt response and attention from friends, neighbors, and even complete strangers. Questions are not asked, it is just assumed that action MUST be taken. Everyone pitches in, regardless of the task, and life begins to return to normal.

Having experienced this firsthand last spring when our family faced B & J’s disastrous accident, that need to give back, pay it forward, and/or help someone else in need was born anew. The number of contributions, cards, phone calls, and gestures of kindness were overwhelming, some coming from complete strangers. It was so humbling to find that so many folks cared for our family.

We are so blessed in our lives, in so many ways, it just seems like we MUST try to find a way to help someone else. The immediate needs during a crisis are easily met, but the chronic, continual needs often get overlooked. The overwhelming nature of the needy, homeless and hungry folks in this country all too often keep us from helping as a complete solution to the situation cannot be found.

Tom and I live in a place surrounded by good food…the abundance at times is astounding.

But, our efforts to share this bounty with those who have great need have been frustratingly inadequate. While cash contributions are readily accepted, gifts of fresh food can bring with them logistical nightmares to the recipient group. That left us with a dilemma. We’re generally short on cash and long on foodstuffs. How could we help those in need?

I had read about groups in other cities where the shelters collect un-sold, but useable produce from farmers and farmers markets. I had also read about programs bringing the needy in to farms to “glean” after the crops were harvested. But, sadly, there was nothing similar in our area.

The economic downturn brought a lot of new needs to light. Food contributions to food banks were down, needs at shelters and kitchens were up. Creative solutions were soon to follow.

The Valley Mission recently approached the Staunton/Augusta Farmers Market about a gleaning program. They would set up their truck and accept any “leftovers” from the vendors at the end of the Market and take those back and use in their meal program. It is hoped that as word about this program spreads, that perhaps customers will buy food and then donate it as well. This would have a dual advantage of helping the farmers and providing meals for the needy.

I think this is one of the greatest ideas I have heard of in a long time.

All too often, we get caught up in the drama and trauma of our lives and put aside thoughts of the ongoing needs of others. (I am talking about myself here) Then, it becomes all too easy to say “well, it’s their problem…bad life choices, bad company, no good family/relationships…whatever”. The fact of the matter is… if circumstances were just slightly different….that might just be me. I’ve made choices along the way that weren’t the best, didn’t used to have family to fall back on...and on and on. That’s a very sobering thought. But, in each case, someone, somewhere offered a little hope and encouragement.

This seems an appropriate place to share this video.

So, since we live in a place surrounded by good food, we know we have something to share. I would like to think that by meeting someone’s hunger perhaps we would in some small way …offer a little hope and the possibility of a better tomorrow. That would be great!

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