There is goodness in this world. I just saw it yesterday. Right when I needed the reminder. It lifted my spirits and straightened my back. (Witnessing goodness does that to a person.)
After I teach yoga on Monday mornings, I check on the Little Free Pantry on the front lawn. This pantry stocks non-perishable food for the hungry in our neighborhood. There are no regulations. No proof of income.
The Little Free Pantry is a free-standing structure where folks can get what they need and leave what they want. It is truly a free market.
Yesterday when I went to check on the pantry, a woman was already there: stocking groceries she had brought from home. As it turns out, I know this woman. (Quite often I don’t know the folks who stock the pantry. In fact, I rarely see them. They are like good will ninjas moving surreptitiously in the neighborhood.) This woman sometimes participates in our activities, but more often than not, she is at work and not able to be with us. Needless to say, it was surprise to run into her in front of the Little Free Pantry.
Jane (not her real name) shared with me that she frequently stops by the house to stock the pantry on her way to or from work. I told her I had no idea that she helped out as much as she did. Jane said that she does not like to sit down to eat a meal if she knows that someone else is hungry. She said stocking the pantry is her way of making sure that everyone has something to eat.
As Jane and I were speaking, a man and his granddaughter came by to get some food from the Little Free Pantry. We greeted them and I encouraged them to get as much food as they wanted. (The man and his granddaughter had only picked up 3 cans of food.) The man thanked me and said, “This is plenty. I am teaching her not to be greedy.” I nodded and looked at Jane. She and I both had tears in our eyes. We both were touched by what we heard.
This exchange, my friends, is not uncommon. In the two years since the pantry has been installed, I have witnessed many beautiful encounters such as the one I just described. This Little Free Pantry has been a huge gift to our neighborhood: both for the people who need the food and for the people who are compelled to stock it.
I have seen grandmothers teach grandchildren how to be generous. (One Pantry Angel gives her grandson a budget to buy food for the pantry. On one particular occasion the grandchild asked to put the cookies he wanted back on the shelf, so he could buy more food for the pantry.)
I have seen notes written on tiny scraps of paper thanking us for the food we provided. One note, in particular, said:
“If it weren’t for you, my family would not have eaten tonight. God Bless.”
I have seen a man stop in his tracks when he saw me re-stocking the shelves. He came back to get some food and to let me know that he “never takes all of the food – just what he needs” and that he and his buddies really appreciated the coloring books we left in the nearby Little Free Library. (We have two free-standing structures to support our neighborhood.)
I have seen a mom’s club wrap children’s books at winter time so neighborhood children had gifts to open on Christmas. And I’ve seen whole turkey dinners bought and left by the pantry for an unsuspecting family to pick up.
I have witnessed a lot of joy, love and kindness coming from this little box on our front lawn.
The Little Free Pantry has provided so many opportunities, including the opportunity to change our perspective about needs and how to address them.
When the pantry was still very new, I had a prominent community leader ask me how I was going to monitor who got food. I said I wasn’t. This leader appeared surprised. “Aren’t you worried that someone will take advantage and take all the food?” he said.
No, I am not worried, I replied. I figure if someone takes all the food then they need it. I don’t want to police the pantry. I just want to stock it.
I think Jane feels the same way. Watching someone take the food that she had just placed in the pantry made her face go soft, and I dare say, her insides get warm. Neither one of us yesterday had a desire to regulate the food. We were both happy to see someone get it.
(If you want your face to go soft and your insides to get warm, you too can bring food for the Little Free Pantry. Simply stock what you can in the free-standing structure on the lawn at Shakti in the Mountains and put any excess on the front porch. Don’t live nearby? Consider installing your own Little Free Pantry in your neighborhood. We are happy to share the construction plans.)