This past Saturday the Chester Country chapter of the A.B.A.T.E. motorcycle group delivered the results of their annual food drive to the food pantry. The group estimates this year’s drive netted approximately 10 tons of food and personal care products. I was unable to be there when the food arrived, but I hope to be able to attend this event next year. The caravan of motorcycles and pickup trucks pulling trailers loaded with food was met at the edge of town and given a police escort through the town center to the building that houses the food pantry. To me one of the joys of living in a small town is the hoopla that occurs for an event like this. I’m certain when I witness it firsthand I will tear up.
After writing a blog post about this event last year I happened to encounter some members of the local A.B.A.T.E. motorcycle club at our town’s First Friday event. I had been so moved by their effort, and as a volunteer in the food pantry, had seen what a difference their food drive made, so I decided to approach these leather clad bikers to thank them and let them know they were making a difference. What I got in return was a very touching conversation. The biker I talked to had at one time needed the assistance of our food pantry. As a result of the help and kindness he had received at a difficult time in his life, he made a promise to himself that he would participate in this food drive as a way to repay this kindness and help others who were going through a similar rough patch in life.
As I recall that conversation I can not help thinking about another conversation I had earlier this summer. My husband and I were attending a reunion ceremony for his undergraduate program. It was a cocktail reception and he and I were milling about, not knowing anyone. We approached a couple standing at a table and struck up a conversation. As we discussed who attended the college and our time at the college, the conversation naturally progressed to what we were currently doing. When I mentioned that I blogged about and advocated for those who were food insecure, the wife asked if I focused my efforts on global food insecurity or national food insecurity. Her question instantly made me wary and I cautiously answered nationally, especially locally to where I live. I was relieved when she responded affirmatively, stating that so often there is an emphasis placed on the suffering going on in third world countries, while willingly ignoring the suffering that is happening within our borders to our fellow citizens.
I found truth in her statement but with qualifiers. Locally, I have witnessed numerous people, from this motorcycle group to local churches to concerned neighbors eager to donate food and other items to help those who come to our food pantry. I am always touched and humbled by the generosity of others when the local schools’ food drive is delivered or one of my neighbors calls to ask what the pantry needs or how they can help. These local actions are necessary to help bridge the gap between what these individuals who are food insecure have and what they need to get by, but even at our best we can do very little to lift those in need out of their desperate situation. We are just a band-aid.
To truly change the plight of the food insecure requires a much larger nationwide effort, starting with a strong social safety net and jobs which pay a livable wage, and yet, as a nation Americans currently seem very reluctant to embrace these policies. This divide between the individual acts of generosity I have witnessed repeatedly and the willingness of the greater American society to support policies that will cut aid to the very same people that local generosity has helped is befuddling to me. I have read articles and books to try to understand it. I have engaged in conversation with and listened to those who support cuts to the social safety net to try to understand it. And still I do not. So as I celebrate this Fourth of July with family and full table of food, I will be thankful for the individual generosity of others and hopeful that their generosity continues to be enough to bridge the gap for those in need until our society can come together nationally to work toward nationwide solutions to food insecurity which will lift people up rather than just bridge a gap.