In the Pantry

In the pantry the two hungers meet:

The hunger for food and the hunger to nourish

 

The single mother cares for her children,

Works the first job,

Works the second job,

Cleans up the messes no one else wants to touch,

Falls into bed and wakes as if from death.

 

She comes to the pantry.

 

The father wakes

From a sleep broken by worry and unpaid bills,

Pieced-together paychecks and uncertain health,

Dreams of protecting his family,

Dreams of being chased,

Adrenalin spiking his blood until his pulse never quite settles.

 

He comes to the pantry.

 

Will my car make it for one more month?

Will my child be able to focus at school?

Can I afford the medication?

Will my ex find and hurt me?

Will they shut off the power?

Where will I sleep tonight?

Will I have enough to share with my mother, my brother, my child?

 

The mother who feeds her family and goes without,

The girl trying to ease her grandmother’s old age,

The son who dreams of a better life for his parents—

They leave a world indifferent to their struggles

And come into the pantry. 

 

Let this be a place where the calculations of survival quiet.

Let this be a place of safety, calm, and peace,

A place that feels normal when nothing feels normal.

In a life in which much is hard, let this be easy.

 

In the pantry the two hungers meet

The hunger to nourish and the hunger to be fed

 

Those who have enough

Wake to a community that is broken.

They live a life of plenty, but their neighbors go without.

They sense the pain around them, but it stays hidden.

 

How can we take joy in an abundance that doesn’t reach everyone?

We’ve been bidden to clothe the naked,

Accompany those who live on the edge,

Feed the hungry, bring relief to the thirsty, but how?

 

A congregation recites, “Give us this day our daily bread,”

And believes it can be not just the prayer but its answer.

They organize a food drive and become Christ’s hands.

 

A corporation believes that people are more than customers,

That its profits can profit everyone,

And its people donate money for rent, a walk-in fridge,

So less will go to waste and more to those without.

 

At a kitchen table

In the privacy of her conscience,

In the ache of his compassion,

A person comes to a decision, writes a check—

No act more ordinary or more lifegiving.

 

Together they pray:

 

Let this be a place of welcome. 

A place of no shame.

Let this be a place of listening and understanding,

A glimpse of God’s kingdom here on earth.

 

In the pantry the two hungers meet

The hunger for food and the hunger to nourish.

 

A pantry staff member comes not numbed but enlivened by the stories she hears,

Ready to weep and to laugh,

Ready to bring food in her own arms if there’s no one else to carry it.

 

A director finds a way to provide the essential in a pandemic,

To keep everyone safe,

To offer not less in a time of scarcity but more.

 

A volunteer learns words of a new language.

‘Illimitado’ means unlimited,

Means take as much as you can use with a happy heart

And with our blessing.

 

They come to the pantry,

Where the questions are matter-of-fact and sacred:

Is this your first time?

How many are you caring for?

What do your children like to eat?

How much do you need?

What can I help you find?

May I carry that for you; may I get it out of your way?

 

We enter this world trusting we’ll be fed,

But for some this trust is broken.

Let this be a place of mended trust, of consolation

A place where our community can be made whole.

 

All come to the pantry hungry.

Those in need may one day become donors.

Those who give might find themselves in need.

 

Time and nourishment are given freely;

Nothing is asked for in return, for

The pantry operates in its own currency,

Believes in abundance as miracle,

Fishes and loaves multiplied

By a deep and holy pragmatism,

By a grace as relentless as need.

 

In this humble sanctuary of box cutters and double-checked expiration dates,

Of aprons and crates, metal shelves and scarred floors,

We work toward a world where no one is lost.

We believe that each of us is a part of the other,

And we are fed.

by Deborah Forbes, author and WFCM Board Member

2021