I'm backtracking a bit with this post, going back to Providence, RI to an experience I was just reminded of. Possibly the most meaningful experience I've had on this trip. Possibly one of the most important things people can do for each other.
It was a cool day in a public park. My Couchsurfing host drove two other guests and I there and we unloaded several milk crates that were full of produce. We carried it in and placed it on the ground near a walking path. Several other people, including the organizers of this little event, were doing the same. They set up the boxes of food, produce mostly, but there was also cereal, instant mashed potatoes, and even fresh baked bread from a bakery. It all looked so good. The spread made me want to cook soup.
It was all garbage. This was good food that the grocery stores and farmer's markets were going to throw out. It was being bagged to be tossed out when these guys got it, taking it to the park instead of watching it go to the dumpster.
Had the produce been bad, rotten, spotted, etc. it would have been different. But it wasn't. It was just excess. The box of cereal was being thrown out because the corner of the box had been crushed in during shipping. The packaging was unsightly, so the food was being tossed. The box wasn't even breached. It was the same for the mashed potatoes and countless other items. Good food, just some asinine reason for getting rid of it.
After the food was laid out, people began arriving. Homeless people. Poor people. People who didn't get paid enough to purchase all the things they needed, like college kids. They walked up, each browsing the selection and taking what they needed. They placed the lettuce in a plastic bag gathered from a pile of bags and then went for the celery. The potatoes and broccoli were soon gone. The bread, that tasty bakery bread, was snatched up. There were tooth brushes too. And a guy from a local bike shop was doing free bike repairs for anyone who needed it. So many of these people ride bikes because it's cheaper and this guy was helping keep their bikes on the road longer and also teaching them how to do the repairs themselves.
I stood, watching what these guys were doing. They were taking the excess that our wasteful society creates and were distributing it to those who truly needed it. There was no charge, there was no catch, no strings attached. You didn't have to listen to a sermon like the "Food Not Bombs" groups can put you through. It was just food, there, for anyone who needed it. That's it.
I remember quite well what's it's like to be treated like I'm no longer a person. Although it has happened sparingly on this trip, it takes it's toll. It hurts. Some of these people experience that on a daily basis. They can't escape from that. They can only deal with it, whatever way they can.
On that cold afternoon in that nice little park, they approached with a smile, picked up what they needed and thanked the guys who organized the redistribution of excess for their work and for their kindness. Regardless of how the rest of society treats them, for that short while they were people again. Their humanity was restored.
Every week in that park this happens. These guys find excess food that would otherwise be thrown out and bring it to the people who can use it. But in doing so they give them so much more than just a meal.
I'd like to thank those guys and if I hadn't mailed off my full journal already, I'd post their names here. Anyway, thanks guys. Thanks for doing what you do. Thanks for helping those who need it while so many others simply ignore them. Thanks for making a difference to so many people. Thanks for changing lives and doing something positive. Thanks for not letting good things go to waste when people need it. Thanks.
And Nathan, if you have the names of those other guys who help out with this, please post it in a comment.