A lesson in gratitude for today.
On Sunday I bought a huge package of stew meat from BJs. It was way too big for the two of us to eat. I made a big crock pot of beef stew and still had a lot left over. I was trying to figure out how to freeze it when a woman with three kids posted on our neighborhood site, asking for help to feed her kids. She said they’re on welfare, and, at the end of the month, their food stamp allotment is gone.
Many people came forward and offered her help. Some people derided her and said things such as, “Well, if you didn’t have so many kids…” or “My family had many meatless meals, you should try that and try to make ends meet that way…” But those who supported her told those negative people to stop those comments.
I had an idea: Instead of freezing the leftover stew beef, I offered it to her. It’s about two pounds of good, fresh meat. She was so grateful, she was almost in tears. She gave me her address, which I knew was in a sketchy part of town, but I was determined that she would get this.
When I pulled up to her place, a rundown two-family home, a young man was on the porch. I asked if this was her apartment, and he said she lived upstairs. The door’s front window had been replaced with a piece of plywood. The porch looked as if it could fall down at any minute. The young man told me he’d come about six years ago from Puerto Rico, and that the snow and cold was too much for him on days like today, when more snow is predicted for tomorrow.
The woman herself wasn’t at home, but she’d said if she wasn’t there to leave the bag on the porch. The young man said it would be safe there, although he didn’t know what was in it. I left a brown paper bag with the meat, a box of beef stock, and several potatoes.
The neighborhood in which she lives is about half a mile from where I worked prior to retirement. I didn’t get out much when I had that job, but I will say that when I drove away from the home where I left the beef (where’s the beef?), I noticed many changes in the area. I’ve been retired since November 2014. I took the same route home as I used to when I left work for eight-and-a-half years.
On the way home, I thought about how different my life’s been from that of the young woman who reached out for help. I did not come from a wealthy family. Far from it. Neither of my parents had more than a tenth-grade education. They were hard workers and were able to translate that into homeownership and a middle-class life. Would that even be possible today, given the wealth inequality between the richest and the poorest in our country?
This young mother lives in substandard conditions. Does she have enough heat to keep her children warm in these northeast winters? Does she have a way to inspire her children to immerse themselves in their education in an inner-city school system that may be overwhelmed with students with special needs? Is she working two jobs to pay the meager rent she has to pay to stay in this run-down place?
I cannot answer these questions. I know that in the 1950s and ’60s, people were able to make their way into the middle class and remain there, and it’s not that easy today, when some have to work two and three jobs just to survive.
I have to commend this single mother, however, for reaching out to the neighborhood and asking for help. And I commend the neighbors for coming forward to stick up for her and assist her family. These are people who are grateful for what they have and are willing to share their bounty with people in need.
My heart is full for the fact that my mother and father taught me the value of sharing with others. My mother’s motto was always sharing and caring. My neighbors have carried on that tradition. I’m grateful to have participated. That’s my lesson for today.
January 24, 2023