Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Conversations Standing In Line

Sweetie is the correct age and earns so little on Social Security (ironic choice of words, me thinks) that he qualifies for the Commodity Food Program. Well, last week he signed up for it in this county as we're newly arrived residents. He was given a card that qualified him to also partake of a monthly food pantry - which was held today.


So today, we show up an hour before the appointed time and see about 50 people already in line. This particular program is for anyone low income so there were people of all ages which made conversation interesting, to say the least.

First off, I'm sometimes a gabber and other times a listener when waiting around. Today I was both. The first woman we spoke with was practically a neighbor and tipped us off about where to park next time, etc. She was the first to mention the economy so of course I was attentive. She lived through the Depression and claims the next one is well on its way and will be much worse. WE AGREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Next, we got in line outside and listened to the chatter. People complained about the line; about the process; about what they get in their box of food; about the weather; about family members; about other people in line; about the time of day this particular pantry is held. You name it, they had plenty to complain about.

Some people talked about how they wound up at this food pantry: two couples had moved north from Lower Michigan like we did; one couple "moved back home" from Wisconsin; and one man had lost his job in a town 100 miles from here, moved to the area for another job, and was laid off two months later. As our little group talked you could see others quiet down and begin to listen. One woman, in particular, was upset that us "downstaters" had moved north. Others seemed to consider themselves lucky to be living here because the economy appears to be doing better than Lower Michigan. At one point, I said, "It's that word appears that is misleading." You could have heard a pin drop. Either my remark was too far over their head or they thought I was being pompous - according to Sweetie. Sorry, if I have a little college education and some common sense but the word appears troubles me.

This area has a lot of new construction, especially business construction. It has two universities, two hospitals, several small companies and lots of self-employed people. You don't see abandoned homes, reams and reams of foreclosures or home auctions, groups of homeless people, or boarded over windows on downtown businesses. Yet, a worker at the pantry told me their numbers have steadily increased and they now serve about 600 people every month. Later, at another stop, we overheard two Department of Human Services people talking about their increased workloads. Next, we visited the local pawn shop looking for a particular tool. The owner didn't have the tool but said his business has skyrocketed. Most of his customers either pawn repeatedly at 25% interest or he sells their merchandise outright.

However, the real eye-opener today was when we got home. As we approached our driveway a van was parked nearby. A neighbor, who we've met once, pulled in behind us. By the look on his face we knew something was up. His home was foreclosed on today. He has no family here other than a brother in the local nursing home. He has a small SS check each month and an old van and his dog. His home is really a hunting camp but he's lived in it for 10 years. We didn't know that until today as many neighbors are seasonal residents. We read the newspaper online so we wouldn't have known about the foreclosure and no one else in the neighborhood had mentioned it. He had heard we have extra food and wondered if we "could spare a little." Of course we said yes and then asked where he planned to go. "To the beach," he said. We invited him to spend the night and offered to help him try to sort things out tomorrow but he declined. So after fixing a small box of food and giving him two gallons of water from our storage he drove off. He's about 70, walks with a cane and it's been in the 40's here at night.

I am sick. And I will lay awake tonight worrying about where he is and what more can we do.

And, yes, I know his situation brings to mind all sorts of questions. How could this happen to him? What did he do wrong? How did he still have a mortgage at 70? If he knew this was coming why didn't he make other arrangements?

I have a few suspicions regarding some of the answers but this bugs me just the same. He's an elderly human being. And he's alone and frail. And this country sucks right now. It just sucks.


Selous Scout said...

God bless you for helping that man!
God Damn the elected officials who have perpetrated this mess.

I might be a bit concerned thet he had "Heard" that you have extra food. How many more are going to show up requesting food when times get tougher for them?

If you can afford to, you might consider a hidden root cellar to store most of your preps in, just in case.

It is easier to deny what can't be seen than to explain away what is not hidden from sight.

HermitJim said...

You're right! It is sad...and it's troubling, but what can we do to help the elderly that have no one and no place to go?

Unsettling, indeed!

treesong said...

Selous Scout,

Thanks for stopping by.

We're not concerned about people knowing we have food because we're trying to influence our little community here. Perhaps this sounds crazy but I'll explain further in my next post. The forclosed property of the gentleman I mentioned borders our land. In fact, we can glimpse his place from ours.