Family lore has it that a post in my great-grandparents’ fence was marked by hobos, to indicate a soft touch. During the Depression, down on their luck people knew they could stop by the Williams’ dirt farm and get something to eat. There wasn’t money to give out, but Jim and Lola always made sure there was something to eat. They didn’t have much, but they shared what they had.
Jim and Lola’s daughter, Ettie, would go on to marry my grandfather, John. John grew up as a giver, so he and Ettie quietly continued in the same vein.
“When I was still living at home and working,” my mother told me, “a woman was laid off from work. She had three kids, and her husband was gone. I went home and told Mother and Daddy about it. Daddy asked me how many kids she had, then he went to the freezer and he started shopping our groceries for her. Then, he went to the store, and he picked up whatever else he thought she needed. They took care of that woman until she was able to find another job and get on her feet. You don’t leave kids to starve.”
My mother, Joan, kept up the work in a multitude of ways (and my dad). The most lasting impression for me was a couple of children who would show up at the Hardees to beg. My mother bought them food. The manager told her that the mother was outside, and she sent the kids in to beg, and suggested it might be a grift, but that didn’t matter to my mother. What mattered to my mother was that kids were hungry. She fed them.
I’ve grown up with the same attitude. I rarely carry cash, so I can’t always help when I see someone on the roadside, but when I can, I feed people. I cannot abide the thought of people going to bed hungry. I cannot abide the thought of a mother knowing she is putting her child to bed hungry. I cannot abide the thought of children, or elderly not knowing where the next meal will come from.
Summer is upon us, and that means school will be out. For some children, that will mean hunger. For some children, a school breakfast, or lunch is the only meal they can count on in a day. Summer vacation means not knowing where the next meal will come from.
Please consider this when you are grocery shopping, and please participate in any food banking your grocery store does. Please donate cash to your local food banks. And, please, if you see a family that is begging, even if it might be a grift, find a way to get some food in their hands.
There is nothing wrong with being a soft touch. There is everything wrong with people being hungry.