Many years ago, I knew a woman who had been homeless for a long season in her life. When she was in elementary school, living in the family car, her food for an entire day was one 25 cent bag of potato chips — and that was a good day.
Even 20 years later, as a well-employed adult who had graduated from an elite college, that sense of food insecurity still haunted her. I remember watching her ration out exactly seven almonds for her snack each day — so she would never run out. It gave her a sense of security, but it was no way to live. Even though she had plenty, she lived with a lot of fear.
Fast forward to today, when grocery store shelves are empty and Amazon is back-ordering and panic is steadily rising. And I’m reminded of my old friend. But, the truth is, I’m reminded of her because right now, I feel like her.
I feel like I need to “make sure we have enough.”
My generosity feels pinched, because “what if there’s not enough?!”
When my children ask for “second breakfast” like they always do, I want to say no, and ration our food “just in case.”
I might have even replanted my AeroGarden with salad greens “because you never know.”
Let me be clear: I am not equating the very real trauma of homelessness and long-term hunger with our current situation. There is no national food shortage — the supply chains are still functioning well.
But the fearful way we’re acting does not reflect our reality.
Fear and insecurity make us do crazy things — like buy ALL the toilet paper or 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer — which in the moment may look like sanity; but it also has the potential to do a lot of harm when it comes at the expense of others. How many of our elderly or immuno-compromised neighbors have had to stand in long lines because we put our needs before theirs?
We are better than this, my friends. Fellow moms, we are used to loving selflessly, giving when we don’t think we have anything left, and caring even when we don’t want to. Now is the time for us to lead. Not (just) by how well prepared we are or how well we protect our own families (although both are important), but by how we love our neighbors.
Here are some practical (and safe) ideas that might give us a good start in choosing kindness, not fear:
- Don’t go to the grocery store if you don’t need food. Don’t let panic drive your decision-making. Panic tends to propel panic, and we all know what chaos ensues when everyone runs to Market Basket at the same time for bottled water. Practice love of others and trust of others — and maybe let the poor grocery store employees breathe just a little bit.
- Advocate for grocery and essential stores to make the first hour of business designated for the elderly or immunocompromised — when everything is freshly cleaned and not crowded. Help eliminate risks for others who are at higher risk than you.
- Know what locations are offering free meals for at-risk school children who previously depended on breakfasts and lunches through their school — Boston Moms has assembled a list here. If there isn’t one in your area, advocate for one.
- Consider “adopting” an older person, a single individual, or a single parent on your block or in your building to call or text whenever you do your shopping. Check in to make sure they’re staying sane. Check in to make sure they know they’re not alone, even when it feels lonely.
- If you are financially able, continue paying any hourly wage help you usually hire, even if you are not currently using them, so that they are not faced with a financial gap. This pandemic will hit the lowest wage earners the hardest — and for them, food insecurity is often an actual issue.
- Practice gratitude in all things. It resets our perspective and enables us to choose hope rather than fear or self-centeredness.
I think 2020 (and perhaps this decade) will be defined by the coronavirus pandemic. We don’t have much choice in that. But we do have a choice in how we respond, and how we respond will define who we as a people are.
Let’s choose kindness, not fear.