by Bob Zerrenner, RBC Food Bank volunteer
Recently, I volunteered for to pick up the groceries for the Food Pantry. As a newer volunteer, I thought it would be pretty simple: Drive up to the store, load up the groceries, return to the Food Pantry and unload. The term “shopping” never entered my mind (I personally don’t shop – especially not in stores.) I usually just make a list and search reviews to find the best price to buy. When I go in the store, I don’t meander the aisle thinking about the various products. If it’s not on my list, then I don’t buy it (unless it’s a dessert – then I may do some impulsive justification of why it should be on the list!)
Due to my schedule, I planned on making two trips to two different stores. I went to the first store that had the four products that we needed. I entered the store, got two carts, my binder with notes, our tax-exempt card (don’t forget to hand them that!), a lot of energy, and went to my first aisle to find the first item. I found the space on the shelf where the item was supposed to be …but, alas, no item. I thought I’d ask a friendly associate, but could find any associate at all, let alone a friendly one. Moving on to item two: I needed 200, but found only 30 on shelf. Make that question number two on my friendly associate request list. On to item number three: needed 100 items, but only 19 were on the shelf. Do you see a theme starting here? Move on to the last item where I needed only 4 items and – bingo! – I was able to find all four.
After a little while, I found three associates together in one aisle and figured that the odds were in my favor that at least one would be friendly. After a short conversation, I remembered why I don’t gamble – all three associates were not that helpful at all, even after explaining to them how to use their own inventory scanners to see if any of the products I was searching for were in the back room. Continuing on my search for a friendly associate, I finally found one who explained that a delivery truck was scheduled for that evening to bring the back-ordered items. I should check back tomorrow.
I left the store and actually was disappointed that my first shopping adventure was a disaster. I returned to the Food Pantry and started to unload the feeble amount of merchandise that I had purchased. As I opened the door to the pantry and saw the shelves – and how empty space was on them – I was instantly reminded how blessed I am. What if I needed assistance and I waited in line and got a bag or two of groceries? Would that be “enough” to feed my family of five? Who would I turn to for assistance? Would I be “happy” with the products provided, or would I want brand name products? Oh, how selfish, self-centered and sinful I am.
The next day, I went to our second store where I knew that a lot of items were waiting for me to pick up (we do an advance order with this particular store each week.) Upon arrival, I was greeted enthusiastically by the manager who proceeded to wheel out two u-trucks full of groceries. She was pleasant, and her whole team was helpful during the process. I loaded the car and realized that I may need a bigger car, but we were able to fit it all in there.
As I drove home that night and came home to a pantry full of stuff, I realized how blessed we truly are. How much do I take for granted that our pantry is filled? How do I react when my favorite chips, cookie or fruit is not at my fingertips? Do I react with a correct heart and mind? Or do I react out of a mindset that tells me I deserve to have this and now? There was a frustration within me that said, “Why can’t I just go out and buy the products and not worry about the cost? Couldn’t just we fill the pantry to the ceiling with food?” Yes we could… but that would be us working and not God working in this ministry. We may only be able to provide some small amount of food each week to the people who need it, but we are also building relationships with those people. We are telling them about eternal food available through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. While we can’t provide for every physical need, we can certainly provide for their spiritual need and point them to the place where the pantry is never empty.