His gray whiskers adorn the fine lines of his handsome face. I look for him weekly, hoping that he’ll shop during my two-hour stretch. I’ve come to anticipate his smile, genuine kindness and the sheer joy he brings to a sometimes difficult place. He’s one of the givers in life. I’ve only known him for a short time but I can tell that this role has defined him for decades.
“Here you go, dear.” he says, handing back one of the two empty shopping bags that I’ve given him. When I protest, he responds, “Never take more than your fair share. One bag will do me just fine.” He proceeds to circle the small food pantry looking for tasty treasures which require little preparation or no cooking at all. I smile back at him, wondering why he is such a happy, gentle soul. His age is probably north of eight decades but he lives a much younger man.
“How about this?” I offer, holding up a can of something nutritious. “Too much salt he responds. I’ve got to watch that darn salt.” he says with a smile. I applaud him for minding his health and again marvel at his positivity. We chat back and forth for awhile and I continue to coax him with nourishing food options.
As he nears the end of his shopping effort, he lingers near the front desk to share a little story from his past life. His demeanor is giddy as he delights in speaking about happy days gone by. Through it all, he gives me hope and encouragement as I listen to the words of a devoted husband, father and friend. He does not speak as someone with regrets, only gratitude for the life that he’s lived.
And then he gently reaches into his pocket and hands me an envelope. His gift for the blessing of the food pantry. Though not required, he makes this generous offering each week. It is his way of giving back – contributing something to the pantry in gratitude for it’s use. Every week when I humbly accept his outstretched hand, I imagine his gift equals that of the generous widow in the parable of the widow’s offering in the gospel of Mark. Truly he is giving much more than most others in the world today. And it has impacted my life in a major way.
“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”Mark 12:43
When my volunteer shift ends each week, I think about the wonderful people that I’ve had the privilege to meet, including this lovely gentleman. I usually sit in my car for a few minutes, car seat heater on high, and ponder my morning – I marvel at this friend’s ability to give so freely from “all he has to live on.” His generous soul has helped me to be more aware of the beautiful life that I have been blessed with – challenges and all. When my back pain is particularly bad, I’ve learned to think of those with illnesses far worse than mine and pray for them. Some days, the pain is really tough at the end of a busy food pantry shift. In those moments, I think of this friend and try to “give all my pain away” – offering it for those most in need of God’s mercy and prayers at that particular moment in time. Like my beautiful mom Joan, this man is a giver in life. We need more givers- they remind us that each day is a gift. Each moment is another opportunity to give back in gratitude for the life which we’ve been given – challenges and all. This Thanksgiving holiday weekend – let’s all try to be givers, just like mom and my new (salt free) friend from the food pantry.