Giving Back is an Obligation, Not a Good Deed

When Nettl and I first got together back in 2000 we began years of talks about how we want to help people in need. It started with my elderly mother, who had a stroke and was about to be dumped into a fleabag nursing home by my brother. I said no way, not on my watch, and we brought her to live with us. Then, over the next couple of years, our five shared children of varying ages came to be with us...

Over the past ten years we have known dire need. Sometimes I don't know what we will eat. Walking into Walmart with only $4.38 in change is a humbling experience. I considered dumpster-diving one afternoon, but was terrified of getting arrested and then having a fine to pay. Sometimes all we have in the pantry is Ramen and heels of bread, but we make it through, thanks to a loving, helpful family, wonderful friends, and the universe itself, which keeps track of things for us. We get through it; what choice is there?

You might remember a few months ago I wrote about David, a homeless man down on his luck, who saw us on the front porch one night and approached us. Our pantry was pretty bare, but there was no way that kind and honest man was going to leave my house hungry, so I fixed him some leftovers. The next evening he stopped by with a handpicked bouquet of wildflowers. That meant everything to us. We haven't seen him again and it's my fervent hope that things have worked out for him and that he got the job he'd applied for.

This evening as we sat here in our bedroom, I saw a young mother with two childrena toddler and a babywalk up to our porch. When she motioned to me through the window, I went to the door and opened it. She was both deaf and mute and she explained with gestures that she needed a ride to the local market because the children were hungry. I motioned for her to meet us in the driveway. When I stepped out the back door she held up her baby's bottle, which only had water in it. I filled the bottle with milk, then Nettl and I drove her to the market.

When she came back out, all she had was a small box of fish sticks. Back at our house a few minutes later, we invited her in and we filled a Walmart tote bag with things from our pantry: tuna, mac and cheese, Ramen, juice, some cans of Chef-Boy-R-Dee, that kind of thing. We gave the little boy a cup of milk and they left, Nettl going with her a ways to make sure she and the children got across the street safely. The young mother's face was full of gratitude. Judging from where she lived and how she'd approached our home, she'd been up and down our street, but no one had helped her.

Years ago when we said we wanted to help people, we didn't realize that we'd first have to be needy ourselves, then start by giving what we could; each time it's a little more. Who knows? Maybe one day we'll be building a Habitat house for someone, or sending large checks to feed the hungry. For now, we're grateful that we always seem to have just enough to share, and we're grateful that, somehow, these people are sent to us.

It's obscene that in one of the richest countries in the world there are mothers with hungry children. What's worse is that they live right here with us and we don't see them, we don't look, and we don't want to know. While some people gorge themselves on the KFC Double Down, there are babies in the same town who are going to bed hungry. It makes me ill.

Please don't leave any comments complimenting us. We're just doing what we feel we as humans are supposed to do for each other. I know what it's like to go hungry so that my children can eat, and I know the horror of seeing the look of hunger on my family's faces. This wasn't a good deed, it was a human deed. It was our way of returning the good that others have done for us, and that's enough. Please don't make me close the comments!   ;)