So, the guy came to the food bank because he needed help to feed his family. They box him up the usual stuff; staples like canned veggies, off-brand cereal and peanut butter, and powdered milk. He’s aghast. He can’t imagine eating that off-brand peanut butter. He demands prime rib instead. Only the very best for him. The woman behind the counter at the food bank looks at him, completely bewildered. Why in the world would he think he could get prime rib at the food bank? He explains that he isn’t like the rest of these people here. He’s not a lazy bum. He’s better than them. More important. It should be obvious to her if only she’d just look.
She explains to him that she did look. She looked more than he realized, and noted some interesting things about him. From his expensive wristwatch to his expensive car, she looked. She noted the fact that he had a job. It was right there on his intake questionnaire. She looked at his address and zip code; he lived in an upscale area of town. The woman had been volunteering at the food bank for years, and she had learned that the surface isn’t always the whole story. Granted, he looked affluent, but that didn’t mean he was. It didn’t mean he didn’t need a little help. And that was what she was there for, to help. She offered the box of staples again, along with an olive branch. This time she offered him a voucher for the local grocery store as well. These were usually reserved for those most in need, like families with small children. It wouldn’t buy him prime rib, but he could maybe get a few name brand items to supplement the off-brand staples offered at the food bank.
Not only was the man not appeased, he was incensed. He railed at her about her insensitivity to his situation. She should have just given him the food vouchers and kept the rest of the crap for the homeless people and bums that came here. What the hell was she even thinking? They had some kind of nerve there. Before they would even offer to help he had to fill out their dumb questionnaire, asking personal questions about his life. After that indignity, they offer him what they offered to everyone else. He wasn’t everyone else. Why could she get that through that thick skull of hers? He. Was. Different. Besides, why even have this off-brand dollar store crap to begin with? Why not stock their food bank with name brand items that people wouldn’t be ashamed to eat? Really, she should be ashamed of herself, and reevaluate how she handled her business. The embarrassment of needing help was bad enough, without the added insult of questioning certain people that asked for it. Give the questions and the crap staples to the bums, not the better class.
The volunteer sighed and started to gather the box of staples up. She was going to just walk away, but something stopped her. She turned back to the man and asked him if he had ever given to a food drive. Well of course he had! What a question! Just another in long line of ridiculous, seemingly pointless questions. Bracing herself for the onslaught, she asked what he had donated. Had it been name brand canned goods, cereals, or other name brand food items? Had he donated prime rib? Drawing himself up to his full height, he peered down his nose at her before replying. Of course he didn’t give prime rib. He also didn’t donate name brand food. It was for the homeless after all. They should be grateful to get anything. Thirty dollars was thirty items of food at the dollar store, and that was a big donation. He doubted any single person had donated more.
Realizing that he still didn’t see, she tried to explain one last time. The questionnaire, she explained was so that they could make sure they were meeting the needs of the person coming in. Some had large families, some had small families, some were alone. They were required by the state to obtain the address, but they found it came in handy at certain times, such as Secret Santa and Easter Bunny basket deliveries. It wasn’t meant to demean, only to better serve the people that came here. Finally, she explained that if she only looked at the surface of people, he would have been denied help. Because on the surface, he appeared to be better off than most of their clients. Years had taught her though, that sometimes there are things below the surface, and those things could make all the difference.
The man stood, saying nothing. Sadly, she placed the box back on the counter and turned away. She had done all she could to help him. She couldn’t force him to accept what she had offered. She moved to fill more boxes and help others. The other volunteers scurried about, unpacking donation boxes, and helping other clients. There was always someone that needed help. The next time she looked the man was gone. So was the box of food. She didn’t ask the others if he had taken it, or it had been given to someone else. She didn’t want to know. It wasn’t that she didn’t care. The problem was that she did.