My husband and I parked and walked to the front door of Winnipeg Harvest on Monday night, a few minutes early for our 5 p.m. volunteer shift. Although we had planned to set up a monthly volunteer time, it had been a year since our last visit; last Thanksgiving week to be exact.
We were ushered into a darkened room, nearly filled with about 40 or so volunteers. At 5 p.m., an information video started playing. It told about the history of Winnipeg Harvest, its growth and the 62,000 people, the majority of whom are children, who are served by the food, time and money donated in our community.
The next video was about the people who use the food bank. One after another client of Winnipeg Harvest told their personal story.
A blonde, middle aged woman, who I assumed was a staff member, began to tell about a time earlier in her life, when as a single mother, a friend had visited her and realized that she had fed her children, but had nothing left for herself. The friend said, “There’s pride, and then there’s too much pride.” She steered the blonde woman to Winnipeg Harvest.
I was glad the room was dark because unexpectedly, tears were flowing freely from the corners of my eyes. I reached in my purse for an elusive tissue and ended up using my shirt collar to wipe my tears.
The woman’s story took me back to this time of year in 1977. Her story echoed mine from some very dark, personal days before Winnipeg Harvest.
My daughters and I were living in an upper suite on Grosvenor Ave., near Grosvenor School. It was the lowest point of my life. Our cupboard was bare. We’d eaten oatmeal for dinner for the last three nights, and it had run out.
I had recently started working in a downtown office with a man named Henk, who had a garden. On a rainy, bleak Monday he’d walked into my office and plunked an enormous head of cabbage on my desk.
“Can you use this?” Henk asked shyly. “We have too many.”
“Sure, I’d love it. Since we moved from Michigan, I miss our garden something awful,” I said.
“Well then, there’s lots more where this came from,” Henk told me, smiling.
That night I boiled the cabbage. With salt, pepper and margarine, my two little girls and I loved every serving of its garden-fresh green goodness. To this day the memory of that cabbage is one of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten. One of the girls said, “It tastes like God.”
Henk asked the next day if I knew how to preserve foods with a canner. I did. Henk’s wife was no longer interested in canning. He brought me the canner, jars, lids and a mountain of vegetables.
I’ve heard that the hand of God is at the end of our arms. I know this to be true, because of the day Henk presented me with the essential gift of food at the exact moment of my greatest need.
© Joanne Klassen October 3, 2017 Winnipeg, Mb Canada firstname.lastname@example.org