By Kathy McCabe
As we enter the holiday season — traditionally a time to reflect upon miracles — let me share with you the “everyday miracles” that I witness at Good Cheer Food Bank.
The miracle of compassion: Good Cheer volunteers do the day-in, day-out work of running our food bank and thrift stores. These amazing men, women and teens radiate compassion toward neighbors on South Whidbey through their smiles, nonjudgmental attitudes, and helpful hands.
Most clients are a delight to serve and incredibly grateful, but some who suffer from mental illness, or who are hardened by a painful life, can be difficult. Yet I have never seen our volunteers be anything but kind and patient. Despite an increase of food bank clients, our volunteers serve others in a way Mother Teresa described as “loving without getting tired.”
This week a woman came to the food bank at closing time after our volunteers had already served a long, busy day. She needed food because her abusive husband was being released from jail and she and her children were going into hiding that evening. Our volunteers stayed late and helped this woman with compassion and a renewed sense of energy. Isn’t it a miracle that the more we share, the more we have; the more we empty ourselves through service, the more we are renewed?
The miracle of faith: I’m not necessarily referring to religious faith, though that is dear to many of us, but rather an unshakable faith that life will get better. It is more than mere hope; it is a perseverance of the human spirit. I see it in many of the clients we serve.
Just yesterday a woman sat in my office — a bubbly, effusive woman — who was widowed several years ago, underwent chemo and radiation for cancer, who was then unable to work and lost her rental apartment as a result, and who now lives in a broken-down bus. Yet this woman didn’t feel sorry for herself. She believed that things would get better, that she would work again, and she was incredibly grateful to Good Cheer, not only for food and fresh produce; more than that, she was grateful for the smiles, the social interaction, and the compassion that she experiences here.
The miracle of needs met: Another woman, approaching 60, is a miracle in her own right, having been diagnosed with cancer at 22 and a survivor of 38 surgeries for multiple forms of the disease throughout her life. Last year, she missed one health insurance payment. The insurance company then required an immediate payment of three months in advance at a cost of several thousand dollars. She could not pay it and is now without insurance. Due to the cancer treatments in her mouth and throat, she relies upon a feeding tube in her stomach through which she pours a liquid meal product, to survive.
Last week she was running out of this meal product, and had started watering it down to make it last. She came to the Food Bank hoping we could help. When we found several donated cans on our shelves, tears came to her eyes because these donated cans gave her the extra time she needed to figure out a workable solution for the future.
Things like that happen in our food bank: A mother finds gluten-free products for her child with Celiac’s disease, or a senior finds a low-salt or low-sugar product for a restricted diet. And this is also a sort of miracle, because we don’t have the funds to regularly stock such items. They arrive via food donations from our community... often just in time.
The miracle of 50 years: Perhaps the greatest miracle of all is that this December we celebrated 50 years of Good Cheer’s existence. The miracle is that on South Whidbey we have created a hunger-free community and, with your help, will continue to do so. We do it for the 868 families who depend upon our food bank each month and the low-income families who rely upon our thrift stores.
Donors like you are a large part of the miracle that is Good Cheer. Writing a check may seem like a small thing, but just look what happens: your donation becomes a miracle in the form of food on our shelves, food which feeds local families in need.
Thank you, in advance, for being part of the miracle.
Kathy McCabe is the executive director of the Good Cheer Food Bank.