“Kindness is as important as knowledge.”
Thanks to Dale, my neighbor blogger to the North, for helping me keep things in perspective. I don’t have to write a book every day, I just need to write.
Today, this Saturday, December 8, 2018, I spent the morning at the Northern Illinois Food Bank, in Geneva, IL. My friend Karin brought a group of 20 people there this morning. I brought my daughter and her two friends. Together we packed 14,364 pounds of food, providing 11,970 meals. We packed plastic sacks that contained milk, corn, peanut butter, pears, tomato sauce, spaghetti, tuna, granola bars, and macaroni and cheese that will make there way into 1,400 children’s backpacks throughout Northern Illinois.
According to its 2017 audit report, more than 71,000 different people each week rely on the food provided by the Northern Illinois Food Bank. These people rely on 800 member food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and youth and senior feeding programs in 13 counties. These are the collar counties around Cook County, where Chicago is situated. The counties go straight up to the Wisconsin state line, west of Rockford and south of Joliet. It is a huge swath of land, and outside of Cook County, it’s the most populous region of the state. Actually, if I stopped and did the math, there are likely more people in those 13 counties than in Cook County. It’s no wonder the food bank is the fifth largest in the country.
We were joined by teams of people from companies, like nearby Jel-Sert, famous for its Pop-ice freeze pops. Its team packed the non-perishable items of stuffing mix and gravy for holiday meal boxes to be accompanied by fresh turkeys and more. Overhead we listened to holiday music that I whistled along with as I stuffed pears, and granola bars into the plastic sacks that I moved down the makeshift conveyor belt, equipped with rollers and all.
When we first walked into the warehouse I thought, we don’t need 20 people, and I was wrong. There were sack stuffers, food grabbers, box openers, box crushers, sack finishers, sack lifters, carton runners, and more. It was an intense, positive, collaborative experience.
Brian and Jim, two of our fellow players, at WestSide Improv did the heavy lifting, moving the sacks into the crates, that stacked beside and upon each other. All told our sacks of food filled 14 pallets. It was three-plus hours of cardio, that made my heart pump and sing.
High on adrenaline and goodwill, we drove home talking about the real challenges families face: pay the rent or buy groceries, and the unfortunate shame that comes with asking for help. The girls asked when we could go back. I suggested once a month, to which Bridget said why not more.
My friend Karin did something remarkable today. She helped me be a better person, a better mother, a better member of my community. She created an opportunity for my daughter to appreciate everything that we have, and how easy it is and rewarding it is to help others.
This Saturday morning I’m grateful to Jeannine Clinton and Jeff Ash. Had I never walked into Essencia, I would have never been introduced to WestSide. Jeannine’s daughter Sophis performed there one night, because of which some months later, I took a class upon which I met Karin, my dear friend, who organized this morning’s trip to the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
Being charitable is not an expensive action. Making time and space for it is the first step. While it may take one person to change the world, it sure is fun when 20 pitch in to do good together.