July 7, 2021
Yesterday, a dear friend suggested I bring “Love and Joy” to my creative writing process. Today, I found myself bringing “Love and Lettuce” to the Food Pantry at the Germantown Neighborhood Center. Joy, however, was a missing element in my trip. Instead, I walked away sobbing.
- I sobbed for the mouths I could not feed.
- I sobbed for the communication barrier between myself and the Asian community.
- I sobbed for the woman who looked broken hearted when I told her she was taking too much.
- I sobbed for the old man in the wheelchair who said he’d been there in line since 10 last night.
What prompted me to bring the Love and Lettuce was an experience I had in June. I was walking my dog at Snug Harbor School. There was a very old Asian couple picking leaves off a tree. I had recently downloaded Plant Identification ++ app and was intrigued why they chose this tree. After much communication difficulty, I learned the leaves were edible and used in soups. My heart felt full of awe and admiration for their knowledge and resourcefulness to feed themselves. At the same time, my stomach felt sickened by the reality they did this to meet their BASIC human needs. Eating. I vowed then I would try to provide food from my garden come harvest time.
The lettuce in my garden is now growing beyond what I can consume. I’ve given it to neighbors and friends. I’ve attempted several times to talk to the old Asian people I run into on my walks at the school. I try to ask them if they want lettuce. I try to invite them to come with me to my house and give it to them fresh. They don’t understand me. They end up shooing me away in frustration. I walk away feeling so sad because I know they would be happy to follow me if they could only understand what I was saying. So I decided I would attempt to reach them through the Food Pantry, which is only open on certain days. Today was that day.
I wasn’t sure the Center would just let me bring my hand-picked lettuce. Rather than pick it and have it go to waste, I decided to walk up and find out first. I got there around 8:30 a.m. and found people standing in line. I asked what time they opened and a nice man in a wheel chair told me 9:30. I was flabbergasted they were already in line. He told me he had been there since 10 pm last evening. With a pained look across my face, the only thing I could utter was… “WHY?” His answer was “It’s better to be there all night and be one of the first in line than to show up in the morning and wait in line for hours.” Given that today was a scorcher and there was no shade for the people, I understood him fully. I was extremely uncomfortable after a 5 minute walk in the hot soupy air. Not to mention, I am sure the pickings get slimmer the longer you wait in line.
I asked him if he thought I could donate fresh lettuce from my garden if I picked it. He assured me even if the Center wouldn’t take it that the people in line would. I thanked him for all of his information, gave him a Loving touch on the shoulder, and said “I will be right back”. I walked home crying for this nice guy who waits out all night long for FOOD.
I got the biggest tray I could find and picked as much lettuce as I could possibly fit on it. I then hand-washed and carefully placed each leaf with Love on the platter. Presentation is Everything they say! I say it is about the intention put forth behind the presentation… The Love.
I grabbed a box of Ziploc baggies so people could have something to put their lettuce leaves in and headed back to the school, all the while balancing my big tray of lettuce on top of a baby carriage. It was a feat but I was determined to bring Love and Lettuce to the people.
The line had gotten much, much longer when I returned. I realized there was no way I had enough baggies for everyone and there was no way the lettuce was enough to go around. That pained me.
I was trying to handle both the tray of lettuce and the baby but was struggling to do so. An old Asian woman attempted to help me with the tray. I decided right there and then she needed to be someone who should get first dibs on the lettuce. Rather than bring the tray into the Center, I had her place the tray down on a concrete landing step. I handed her a baggy and motioned for her to take some lettuce. I looked around at the other Asian women nearby and motioned for them to take some as well.
The woman grabbed a section that was a significant portion of the tray. I looked at her and said “too much” and motioned for her to look around at all of the other people. She did not understand me and withdrew completely thinking I was telling her she couldn’t have any at all. She looked so sad. I then reassured her I wanted her to have it and took the baggie and showed how much was appropriate to put into it and handed it to her.
The other Asian women watching us uttered sounds of understanding and their eyes lit up. They reached for baggies and took one appropriate bunch of lettuce I looked out at the others in line and motioned them to come get a baggie. I saw eyes squinting in the uncomfortable heat looking back at me with realization it would be gone by the time they reached me. They were right. It was all gone within seconds. I felt devastated. I did what I could. I should feel good inside for what I could do but somehow it was overshadowed by the pain I felt inside at what I witnessed.
I brought Love and Lettuce. Joy was lacking, but I did find Gratitude. I am grateful I finally bridged a communication gap and was able to feed people who I could tell were very appreciative for it as I KNEW they would be. I couldn’t feed them all, but maybe the lettuce got to those who needed it most. Tonight, I am Content with that thought.
I am going to KEEP bringing Love. Perhaps Joy will follow.