Peanut Butter

I started volunteering at a local food bank a couple times a week. I chose to work in the front area where the hampers and other food related items are handed out. 

I was curious as to who are the clientele for these organizations and what is involved to qualify for the support?

According to statistics, 1 in 7 people in Canada are food insecure. Out of that number 33% are children. On average there are 1.4 million visits to a local food bank in Canada every month.

As I toured the local food bank I was told that they supply lunch programs for children to most of the schools in the city now. On the day I visited they made 1500 sandwiches to bring distributes to elementary schools.

We all know that our dollar isn’t going as far these days. Whether you rent or own a home, once you get done paying all the bills and expenses not much is left over. It can be intimidating to go into a grocery store these days with the hopes of finding affordable food that is nutritious but doesn’t break your bank account.

Since when does lettuce cost $7.00 a head? It wasn’t long ago when you could buy a dozen eggs for less than a buck. Now you are lucky to find them for under $5.00.

As I stocked the shelves with donated items I was curious as to what people would choose as their two items from the dry/canned goods and condiment areas. They have a choice of one sweet or salty snack as well. The most popular is the bags of chips or if available, packages of big Costco muffins. I understand the concept of making it last.

I loaded a shelf with big containers of vinegar and thought that no one would want such a big bottle. I was wrong. As soon as the doors were opened the 8 bottles were gone. The more I think about it the more sense it makes. There is lots you can do with vinegar. You can clean with it, as a hair conditioner or use it in dressings and flavoring. 

The foodbank I volunteer for has a big homeless population. I was surprised to see that it had all sorts of ethnic backgrounds. There was no one group that was over represented.

A Lot of people are very skinny and you have to feel for them. I admire how tough they are too. I noticed their hands. I have experienced frostbite and it isn’t pleasant. It can be quite painful. Long term exposure can cause permanent damage. I wish I had a box of mittens to hand out along with the muffins. The more practical side of me knows that they would probably just get abandoned somewhere or not used.

Humans are adaptable to their environments. As I get to know this curious group I am fascinated by their inventiveness. 

What do you do with a jello package when you live on the streets? I asked someone the other day? I was informed you can put it in a bottle of water and make jello or just drink it. The same goes for cake mixes. You can add water and if you have access to a microwave you can cook it.

Buns are selected over sliced bread. White bread is chosen more than brown. Honey is available quite often and leads to the obvious question…”Do you have any peanut butter?”

I sigh as I am a big fan of peanut butter and honey. When peanut butter is available it goes in the hampers and is not usually available for people of no fixed address. I am tempted to go buy a few boxes of small jars of it to put under the counter and bring out when someone asks. The challenge is that once expectations are there it becomes hard to go back. The foodbank adheres to strict rules. They have to. Some days the food is plentiful and the selections are vast. Other days there isn’t enough to fill the shelves up completely so rationing is needed to make it last.

I have never known what it is like to go hungry and I don’t wish that feeling on anyone. 

I look into the faces of the little kids that come in with their parents. I hug them in the light in my heart.

We have become a society of haves and have nots more than ever before seen. The gaps seem to be getting larger.

If you see that bin in the grocery store marked for the foodbank and you can afford a few dollars to donate I would encourage you to do it.

I have a new understanding of what it takes to feed a community and feel grateful for my lifestyle and new appreciation for peanut butter.


Beach at Yasodhara ashram.

Community Support

What’s next for me? I have been thinking about what I want to do and how I plan to contribute. 

My husband and I had an interesting conversation the other day. His thinking is that you contribute to society by going to work,don’t complain to outsiders, pay your taxes, obey the rules and mind your own business if you can. He isn’t wrong. 

I have had a chance in my life to see a variety of communities as I travel, work, live in and explore different cultures. I would be curious to see how this pandemic has influenced the communities I adored.

What does it mean to be part of a community? What does it mean to support or be supported by those within a community? Where are you going with this you might be asking?

Here are two examples to help me explain what I mean:

Scenario One:

You have many projects on the go and numerous obligations/commitments that you are currently juggling.Your mom passes away. You are devastated. You contact work and they agree to let you take a couple of weeks off. You are reminded that there are services available to help you and even are sent a link to conveniently take advantage of them. You are also reminded to input your time off in the HR system and if you can make notes on your current projects so that someone else can pick them up if time permits. Sorry for your loss, we are here for you. We have noticed a slip in your productivity lately but we can talk about that when you come back. 

Scenario Two:

I have just come out of a class at the ashram and looked at my phone. My husband texted me that he has been admitted to the hospital with COVID and shows an image of his wrist with a hospital band on it. I don’t have a vehicle with me and no means of leaving the ashram. I am upset. The teacher of the class comes out of the building at that moment and sees me upset. She asked what’s wrong and I told her. She insisted we sit on the steps. She asked me if I have phoned the hospital yet? I haven’t so I do that first. The hospital says my husband was discharged earlier. I phoned home and got no answer. The whole time the teacher is silently sitting beside me with her hand on my shoulder. I turn to her and say that I will be “ok” and she can go. She insists that she will stay until we have a resolution. After contacting my kids and relatives that can go check on my husband, I find out that he was admitted but not for COVID. He had cut himself while trimming a tree and got stitches. I finally got of hold of him and he apologized for the joke. He was making a joke. During the whole ordeal I was experiencing I felt supported by the teacher. She didn’t leave and kept prompting me as to what to do next. Offering encouragement and suggestions and even reminding that even If I did have a means of transportation I couldn’t see him as he would be isolated. She helped me to realize and work through the situation. I had two weeks left in my stay which was good. At home, I would have been isolated from my husband for 14 days. She followed up later and texted me the next day to make sure I was still ok. She let others know that I needed extra support and connected me with them. I was in crisis mode not able to help myself or think through the most practical ways to cope with the stress. I didn’t need to as I had community support to help me.

I realized for the first time in my life what community support entails. I am very independent to a fault and asked very little of others to help me. It’s a learned behavior which has really not been very helpful to say the least. Can you see the difference in what it means to be supported by a community here? I know the scenarios are not the same. Work is work and you really shouldn’t expect anyone to offer that kind of experience in a professional setting. I am curious then, why do we have slogans like “We are in this together?” We are a company that supports mental health? Our foundation is built on trust, empathy and compassion. Hmmmmmmm.

My mother was the 5th person to die in my life in under 4 years. The trauma built up in my mind, body and spirit was overwhelming. Some days it still is. How long does it take to stop griefing? How much time should one take off of work to work through the pain? There isn’t a right answer here. What I have noticed is that it takes time. The more you try to suppress your grief the more time it will take to unravel the impact. You can store it in dark places or “cracks” in your foundation. Just know that It won’t go away permanently. It will probably reappear when you least want it to.

I find myself gathering pockets of community support now that I understand the value it can offer me. I can find it by staying connected to the ashram. I can find it by reaching out to friends and family. I find it often in this community of bloggers, the wonderful ladies I blog with and comments from strangers that I have helped them in some way.  It doesn’t have to be work related though I would challenge you to question the next co-worker or leader that says to you “ I/we am/are here for you”. What do they mean by “here”?

I am reminded of day 2 in quarantine at the ashram. I was told “You have to learn how to trust” and with that “You have to ask for what you need”. Words of wisdom when it comes to understanding of community and being immersed in warmth of genuine support. I don’t blame the corporation for not understanding my state of mental health nor have any expectations of companys to build a genuine state of community support. It would be hard to juggle productivity, profits and being human feelings.

PS. It has taken 7 months to get this far in unravelling my emotions and how much the death of loved ones has contributed to my “coma” state of existence over the last several years. We live in a society of instant resolution to our pain. We numb up with substances and mindless stimulation. It takes courage and discipline to feel raw emotions and work through them until they no longer paralyze you. It’s worth it though. The work is worth it and community support is worth finding and cultivating.


%d bloggers like this: