We did our first food distribution on Monday.
I was quite scared as it drew near. We knew it was needed and the right thing to do; and it’s just a simple food distribution. And while we are nervous for how and when Covid reaches our community, we feel like the lack of work and lack of movement is hurting them economically far before that. For a neighborhood living on daily wages (and sometimes barely living on those), having work cancelled for some, irregular for others, and unsure of what tomorrow will hold is chaotic. The idea of stocking up, even for a few days, is nearly impossible.
But we’ve spent so many years trying to establish boundaries: when we give, how we give. We’ve tried so hard to provide skills and jobs and relationships, not just give stuff. To just distribute food; it goes against so much of what we have worked so hard to create. There is a part of me that is scared we can’t go back; scared it will change the way we go forward.
But that might be how we all describe Covid for years to come.
And all the same, it’s what is needed in this season. It’s what is needed now, and we have to trust that God will provide in every aspect of the needs for community here and for our lives here: financially, physically, strategically, emotionally. We have to trust that he’s a God of completeness as he calls us to be here.
So, here we go. None of us thought we’d be here in a million different ways.
On Sunday afternoon we worked as a family of three packing up the food we’d purchased in the market that morning.
Oak helped us put cabbage into bags for ten minutes, and we spent the following two hours trying to prevent him from breaking eggs and smashing vegetables. (#quarantinewithatoddler) We packed up forty bags of rice–six-kilos scooped into flour bags we’ve been storing for something such as this!– and divided out cucumbers, cabbages, eggplant, garlic, onion, duck eggs, and chicken eggs that we’d purchased in bulk.
Monday we had three teenagers scheduled to come by 8am, so we pulled them out of bed at 8:30am. (Because it’s still summer and they are still teenagers.) We handed out masks, gave them a bottle of hand sanitizer, and explained the goal: to reach the poorest families and those who really needed it. We gave them a list of families that we knew would need it, and then gave them the authority to decide from there. We talked to them about the goal: to reach those who needed it, the poor. If they don’t need it, encourage people not to take it. If someone needs more, encourage them to share. And while one group of houses is all sharing germs, wash your hands as you go between communities to ensure you don’t pass anything between them.
And it worked. It went far better than we could have hoped!
We let Oak go outside for the community right around us—with a mask and followed by a shower—to see some friends and share some food. We want him to understand why we are sharing food with our neighbors, why we aren’t seeing our friends, and perhaps even why I got angry when he threw his food earlier this week.
The boys then trekked all over the neighborhood,, taking load after load of rice by bicycle. Oak’s bicycle seat can hold up to 22 kilos, so that’s helpful!
It was so great to hear their conversations: Does so-and-so need it? …We can ask. What about so-and-so? …No, they will be okay. This family will need it more.
Two of the boys even decided their aunt, who is a bit wealthier and currently on paid leave from two jobs, didn’t really need it as much as other families.
Or to overhear, “Where are you?” … “Washing my hands!”…”Wash them at the end, not now. Come on!” … “He can wash them whenever he wants. Washing them a lot is good!”
The boys were such a help. It is extra work for them (and so more money for their families); and much easier on us. We are exposed to different germs than much of our community—our trips to immigration this week, the grocery store, etc—and we don’t want to bring anything into the community. We also felt that Oak couldn’t go to all the places safely, leaving just one of us to trek around in the heat through many kilos of rice. The boys were able to do it together in just over an hour.
We also really loved seeing them have the authority to make decisions, to help their communities, and to deal with questions and explanations on their own. It feels like a small way to set an example of what Christ has asked us to do, but equip them to carry it, too.
And so it begins: Covid Food Distributions, Take 1.