I was volunteering at a local St. Vincent de Paul food pantry recently. The pantry gives its clients 1 bag of groceries per month, unless they have more than 2 people in their household, in which case they get 2 bags.
That’s right. 1 bag of groceries for a married couple. 2 bags for a family of four.
Being suburban and naive, I was baffled and thought to myself: How in the world can someone live on 1 bag of groceries a month? I live on about 2-3 bags per week as a single woman, and growing up, my mother probably bought at least 7-8 bags per week for my family of 5.
Obviously, I understand that resources are thin for the pantries, and must be spread across the multitude of needy. Incidentally, the St. Vincent de Paul Society as an organization and all of its volunteer Vincentians, do an amazing job of orchestrating food for the poor and ensuring that all of their clients are served.
But this revelation caused me to think about the embarrassing reality that I probably could not live (at least very happily) on one bag of groceries - even for a week. What would living on this little mean in terms of simplifying my life and needing less?
Could I eat and drink less for others to have more? Could I change my spending habits on groceries? Isn’t that what God calls all of us to -- to spread and bless others with our abundance?
One of these days, I’m probably going to put myself up to the challenge of reducing my weekly bags of groceries to immerse myself in the poverty that others experience just on the other side of my city. I’m sure it will be eye-opening, and I’m sure I’ll be uncomfortable and left wanting. But it’s necessary, because we who live in abundance sometimes need a wake up call to remind us of our blessings and hear the cry of the poor.
We think we share enough of our money, time, and treasure until we see and experience what little others receive compared to us, and from those encounters, God stretches us to new levels of generosity, giving, and compassion for the poor.