The following is an original story written by Wally Horton, a volunteer at the Tree of Life Food Pantry in Blue Hill, ME
As I sat at my table one cold lonely night, I felt overwhelmed. The power had been shut off so I had no heat. Heck, I didn’t even have much oil. “Well, I’ve got work on Monday,” I said to myself. “I know the job won’t last long, but I might get things running again for a while, right pups?” I felt nuzzles poking at my legs.
Cyrus and Alaska Rose sat beside me. “Hang on, pups, it’s still cooking.” I knew they were hungry. I had been making dog food for a week now out of old stuff from my freezer…cut up beef heart, liver, rice and oatmeal. It was the same food I ate, too.
As night wore on I broke down and wept. Grief turned to anger. “This is what I worked so hard for?” I had been on the tax records since I was 12 years old, but now it meant nothing. My job of 11 years was gone…no lobstering here in winter. The love of my life left me a year ago and I still felt the pain of losing her. My new car, my first new truck, gone! Everything gone!
My health was bad. My left hip was in constant pain. All those years of paying for health insurance was useless. “I should have kept the money, pups, at least we’d have power and dog food.” Two tails wagged and I gave them pats and rubs. “I love you, pups. I promise I’ll fix everything. You’ll have crunchies again.”
In the morning I made up my mind. I was going to the Tree of Life. A friend said I could get some help there. I entered the Turn-Style and asked a lady if there was someone who could help me get food assistance. She said, “The pantry is open tomorrow from 9 AM to 3. Will you be alright until then?”
I was there the next morning, early, thinking there would not be many people there to see me. Boy was I wrong! As I rounded the corner, there was a long line on the ramp waiting to go inside. “Oh, no,” I said to myself. “Look at all these people, and I know a lot of them.” Well, so much for that little bit of pride I had left. As I parked the truck a lump formed in my throat.
Everyone started looking as I approached the entrance. I got lots of hellos from people I knew. Then it started. The comments came. “Didn’t think I’d ever see you here, Wally.” From further up I line I heard, “Well, someone knocked him off of his high horse.”
“Just keep going,” I told myself and joined the line next to a fellow I knew. “George, what do I do?” “Grab a box, Wall,” he said.
Well, I stood there in the doorway with a banana box. A lady sitting at a computer asked me my name and address and how many people I was picking up for. Then, finally, I was inside.
“Look at all this! Gosh, what can I have, George?” “Just grab what you want, Wall”
There was tuna fish , peanut butter, jelly, ketchup…all things I’d been without for a while. “George, am I taking too much?” “No, Wall, you’re not taking enough as far as I can see. Don’t forget eggs and meat.”
I couldn’t believe it! There was soup, canned vegetables, baked beans and then coffee! I hadn’t had coffee in a week or two. I was feeling a little better. As I was headed for the exit door, there it was…dog food! I asked a fellow how much I could have and told him I had two dogs. “Two bags, then,” he said and as I started to walk away he tossed another one in my box.
I thanked everyone and headed for the truck. I was relieved I had made it through this. The only thing I didn’t find was a can of pride.
A few weeks went by and things started to look a little better. I had a few days of work. The power was back on. And so was the heat. I made several trips back to the Pantry during that time of hardship. I felt more comfortable going. I was slowly regaining a foothold on life.
As I came through the Pantry door one Thursday the manager was standing there. I said, “Miss Roberts, I’ve been coming here for a while now and I was wondering if there was something I could do to maybe help offset what I get.” “Well, we need help unloading the Good Shepherd truck on Monday afternoon, Wally.”
I was there Monday and helped unload that truck. I had a good time and made a couple of new friends. As we talked I learned I wasn’t the only one who came to the food pantry in need and wanted to give back for the help I received. That was the first of many trucks I would unload. Before long I was coming in to help on Thursdays, too.
When I see a new face at the door I remember how it felt. I try to make them feel welcome. I want them to leave like I did that first day…feeling a bit of relief. I have been at the Pantry for eight years now and hope to be here for many more. I always tell people if times are tough, come and see us. We’ll be a part of helping you get by. You never know…in that banana box you may find a can of pride, like I did.