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Struggling but Inspired

The most recent in a series of blog posts from the front lines of hunger relief with Woody Smith.

I’m awake and frustrated because my alarm hasn’t gone off yet and I wanted to get more sleep. This has been what seems like an unusually long and challenging week so far and it’s hard to turn my brain off. When this happens the details of the day to come run around in my head: What projects are most important? What is my tightest deadline? Which emails do I respond to first? Wait, did I finish all the bacon yesterday?

As I lay there thinking, I suddenly couldn’t remember what day it was. It’s Wednesday and I’m a little behind. No, it’s Thursday and I’m way behind. What day is it?!

It’s Tuesday.

Like almost everyone I know, I’m struggling with this new world we live in – it just feels overwhelming sometimes. So as I pour my coffee and turn on the computer, I look for much-needed inspiration and find it in my notes from a recent visit to the Food Pantry at Saint Timothy’s Catholic Church in Laguna Niguel.

A couple weeks ago I met Nancy who co-manages the team of volunteers at Saint Timothy’s Food Pantry. Their style traditionally has always been very welcoming and focused on building relationships with those they serve. They would put out coffee and pastries and spend time talking with the families who would come early just to socialize.

Nancy and her team know the families that come to them and she explains with some sadness the changes they’ve had to make due to COVID-19. “It’s hard because we do have a personal connection with a lot of our clients. So now it’s waving through the car window and seeing what they need. I know what their struggles are already. And now with this…there’s so much more going on.”

Whether it’s diapers for young families, easy to eat shelf-stable food for their homeless clients or even having bags strong enough to hook onto the handlebars of the client who showed up on his bicycle, Nancy and her team are committed to figuring out how to care for their families in whatever way is required.

One of Nancy’s key volunteers, Mary Kaye, also shared insights. Mary Kaye is an emergency room doctor who has been spending much of her spare time serving at the Saint Timothy pantry. She began volunteering pre-COVID by taking blood pressures on pantry days and translating for Spanish-speaking clients.. All the changes have her missing conversations and connecting with the families they serve.

Mary Kaye is still able to contribute by preparing food bags for distribution and by brief chats with the families as she maintains physical distancing from the vehicles in line. She tells me, “I like just smiling at them and trying to give them a good word like, “See you next week,” and “I hope I can take your blood pressure soon,” and encouraging them.”

As I finish typing while sipping my breakfast smoothie…because I really did finish all the bacon yesterday…the inspiration becomes apparent. When your life is about serving others, change is simply viewed as a normal part of the process. Change isn’t a roadblock, it’s a directional sign to a new route that, if followed, can lead towards a dramatically more fulfilling destination. I’m grateful to Nancy, Mary Kaye and the team at Saint Timothy’s for all they do for those in need and for reminding me to appreciate the journey, even when it’s not the one I chose.

See you along the path, wherever it may lead…