Saturday, July 31, 2010


I haven’t been faithful to the FOOD NOT BOMBS group this summer. I have lots of reasons, but I haven’t been downtown to feed the hungry more than a couple of times in the last 8 or 10 weeks. There HAS been a lot going on. Heath problems, playing in church on Sunday mornings, going to visit my folks in NC, being out of town for work and pleasure. Still, it leaves me feeling a little guilty.

I have written about FNB
before, but it’s been a while. It is a group of the most wonderful selfless people who meet on Sunday afternoons at 1:00 in Finlay Park in downtown Columbia, SC to feed people who come for a meal. Simply, people who have - feed people who need.

It is not always fun exactly, but it is fulfilling. There are many fantastic moments and images in my mind as I leave with my empty pot to drive back to Lexington. One of the greatest feelings is that it is a kind of giving with no middleman. From my pasta pot or salad bowl to the plate of someone who is hungry. Simple. Effective.

While I have only been involved for a couple of years, there is a pattern of summer months being a little harder. And while I haven’t been in three weeks, I am on the list serve and it seems that the pattern is still the same. People get grouchy in the heat, gratitude is not in the forefront, it gets a little pushy, and emotions run a little higher. Someone on the list serve posted some important observations and asked a valuable question. There were some well-reasoned answers as well. I didn’t ask permission to use their words so I won’t write who said what. But it is so clear that this is an organization of good people who care. I am humbled to be a small part of it.

How is our energy level as a group? 
 I thought I was detecting some burnout last week. Was it the heat? Or was it the endless weeks of hard work and sometimes wondering if the beneficiaries really appreciated it? Does it ever bother you that among our grateful and needy population of clients there are scam artists, folks who would take everything for themselves if we let them, people with homes and a full pantry? 
I found myself dwelling a bit on the negatives this week… 
Some of our clients will complain about any given portion and really do not care about the hundred people behind them
- Sometimes it seems no matter what we do or what we bring, it isn't enough
- The scarcity mentality seems to make it almost impossible for folks to stand in line, there is so much fear that "they won't get their share" that they intensely swarm any given open box (and the person holding it)… 
It is easy to understand how one's emotional bank account could become overdrawn in such an environment… 
So, I think about quitting, or maybe just a couple of weeks off...but then I think about the ones we are helping. The grateful ones, the nice ones, the ones who look forward to seeing us each Sunday...not just for the food either. They look forward to the interaction, the familiar face, the knowing that someone cares enough to do this, all this goes toward creating an emotional and spiritual benefit for that person as well. It must help knowing that there are others out there who will see one as a human being and look past the homelessness and the wounds, self-inflicted though they may be. 
So, how do other FNB'ers "sharpen the saw"? How do you keep your energy level and commitment up? Please share your personal secrets for showing up every week. 

Thanks for sharing some real concerns and issues. In answer to some questions and how I stay focused and willing and keep my emotional bank account full. Yes the heat increases everyone's irritability! And yes, like you said there are people who will scam, grab and generally be less than pleasant to others. On the other hand there are the folks who say thank you, bless you, and how are you? That's what I focus on.

I feel gratitude that I am able to help and that every once in a while the help is acknowledged. I am sharing food because I want to and am able to. 
 It makes me sad when folks are mean to each other, I don't like the tension. I was pleased that the line worked last week even without the tickets. 
By all means take a break when you want/need to.

The miracle of FNB is that we do have enough. The additional food from the other Food Lion, your peanut butter crackers, it all helps. I cringe when I see a server bring just a few boxes of chicken because I am very uncomfortable when I don't have enough to go around. But that is my issue. Other people are better at saying, "this is all there is, one a piece."

FNB works because it is a very fluid process. People can join us at any time, and can stay for as long as they want, and several people have served in the past, taken a break and then come back. 

I view FNB and the picnic as my chance to see love in action. When I share food I am sharing love and that keeps me coming back. 
 I'm looking forward to seeing what others say and to seeing everyone Sunday.

If I am expecting to be thanked or appreciated I am opening myself up to disappointment and resentment. When I serve without expectations, I can stay calm and thankful. 

I have many people that I look forward to seeing. 
 MOST of theses people are the ones that have come to eat… I intend to continue to come because I am on a long process (journey) of getting to know people. 
This is something that I always look forward too
BUT, this is not a Disney Land…
It is always complex, always changing...pretty much matches the VERY COMPLEX people that eat and also those that bring food. 
I really would not trade it in for anything in the world.

That was honest and great! Sometimes you need to take a break. Keep in 
mind that things are seldom as they seem. FNB is not just to feed homeless 
people, but to feed hungry people. If Governor Sanford wants to walk over 
and get a plate then we are there for him… There for the grace of God go I. We are feeding 
their souls and vice versa. It’s more about the compassion than the food. I
get more out of it than I give.

What a blessing to share the ideals of these people. FOOD NOT BOMBS, Sundays at 1:00 in Finlay Park, Columbia, SC. Be there or be square.


Tom T said...

Thanks, Tim.

Judy and I have had the pleasure of cooking and serving with Food Not Bombs for about seven years. The time I spend cooking and especially serving food to folks who feel the love of our caring and sharing are my best hours of the week. Maybe the very small number of folks who seem unappreciative will finally feel the love and
kindness at Food Not Bombs.

Brent and Kristen said...

I would love to come with you one Sunday. I love the bravery of questioning motives, feelings, and emotions throughout life. This world would be much better off if we all took a moment to really think about the things that we do and why we do them. Your craft continues to awe me man! I'm serious about coming.

Brent and Kristen said...

Check your schedule this next week, maybe dinner at the Petersen's?