It started with bad timing. My hands griped the wheel with white knuckles as I zoomed in and around traffic. Engine roaring as a lane would open up so that I could get one more car length closer to my destination, then brakes straining as traffic would grow sluggish, not to a stop but still too slow.
I checked the rearview, not for cars behind me but to see if my precious cargo was traveling well. Two humble boxes, the contents of which could save lives… if I got them delivered in time.
It started with a mistimed harvest and a broken cooling system. If my delivery got to hot it would be useless and it could potentially mean tragedy. So, I mashed the gas and mashed the brakes alternatively as I tried to get south on I 35, a task that is stressful no matter the occasion. From the middle lane I saw a Minivan to my left, if I could just edge up the little Hybrid ahead of me I could pop into the left lane and zoom away. I drew closer to the Hybrid (I hate tailgaters I really do but this was an emergency) and saw the Minivan’s front bumper come even with my back wheel… just a little father… brake lights… the Hybrid was upset at and decided to tap his brakes. As I stomp the brake pedal my hand reaches back to catch the cargo that was sliding forward with inertia. I stopped the car and the cargo just before they ended in a devastating crash.
By the time the Hybrid accelerated (well accelerated for a Hybrid) the van had passed me so I jumped in the fast lane in hopes of a clear path and higher speeds. My hopes were dashed as I saw the sticker family on the back window of the Minivan getting closer as it was keeping a constant 2 mph under than the posted speed limit which is truly more like 12 under for the left lane. The Hybrid was now pulling away and I could feel the smug attitude of the driver from the posture of the care (sometimes you can just tell.) I knew I shouldn’t be mad at the Minivan driver, she was probably just a stick figure mom, driving a stick figure kid to the Dr. or maybe a stick figure dog to the Vet… but still, left lane for passing not getting passed…
Just as I was shaking my head at how sometimes my lack of patience leads to folly I saw an opening in the far right lane. I zoomed over (obviously pausing in the middle land and using my turn indicator in case any law enforcers are reading) and saw a clear path all the way to my exit. From there I knew there were four lights before my left turn onto a side street that had to cross to busy streets after a stop sign…
Nervous beads of sweat dripped from my forehead as if I could feel the heat that was ruining my precious delivery. I was blessed to catch 75% of the lights green and have no traffic to contend on my cross streets. I was only blocks away.
I knew I was only two blocks and a right turn away now… my tension grew inversely to the proximity of my destination. I was imagining an overheated and useless delivery, I could see the disappointment on the faces of my recipients. I’d never let them down before and this would be a new experience. Visions of me leaving the building with my head hanging down clouded my view of the roads.
Almost in tears with worry I finally pulled in to the parking lot, I rushed to the door loaded with my two containers. The smile that Kelly the receptionist usually greeted me with quickly faded. Her eyes widened and then narrowed with question as she took in my sweaty face.
“They took it out too soon and our cooler broke,” was all I could say.
Like a spring Kelly was out of her chair, “Quick let’s get it to the back and see what the damage is.”
She lead me bursting through the double doors and I saw the team waiting for me, I was shaking, so mad at myself even though circumstances were beyond my control.
My eyes locked onto those of the team leader Jackie, “Is it bad?”
Looking down with shame I could barely say, “I haven’t looked.”
“O.k. Bob don’t get down, let’s look at what we’re dealing with.” Jackie carefully opened one of the boxes and looked inside, her brow scrunched and her shoulders dropped.
“Oh no,” I thought, “It’s ruined.”
Jackie reached into the container and pulled out a sample. With horror I watched as she popped it into her mouth and began to chew….
“Not bad,” she smiled, “A little wilted and bitey, but arugula is supposed to have a peppery taste. Besides, any produce you bring us that we can’t hand out goes to a pig farmer who gives us ham every year so nothing you bring goes to waste.”
I was so relieved that my leafy vegetables hadn’t been ruined by getting picked early and sitting in the sun and then a hot room with no ac. I had delivered late but not too late and my humble and meager 50lbs of arugula would go on to feed some hungry families from the food bank.
Oh gosh, I’m sorry did I make you feel like I was delivering an organ for donation? Well, maybe I meant too, maybe food deliveries don’t come with the urgency of say, a new heart, but food saves lives just the same. The urgency of this delivery sort of did bring that fact to the front of my consciousness on this particular trip.
The USDA indicates that as many as 1 in 6 people in the US are “food insecure” which means they don’t have access at all times to enough food for the household. Because I’ve gone hungry before (o.k. it was because I spent my food money on beer, but still) and because I’m trying to change my selfishness through giving and because I work at a place with lots of land and labor I decided that I would try to start a farm to grow vegetables for food banks.
The food bank I frequent was used to me bringing a truckload (ok Grand Cherokee load) of vegetables and melons. Our biggest delivery was 500 lbs of onions, and 497 lbs of watermelon came in second. So, the other issue I was having over the arugula was size of donation. It was only 50 lbs and I was almost too ashamed to deliver it, like, what good would 50lbs of wilted peppery lettuce do?
When I saw the faces of the volunteers and employees and even some of the recipients I knew that 50lbs though small, meant another day between a family and hunger for a few folks at least. And each pound adds up. So far we’ve provided over 3700 lbs of food to our local food bank. The men who are doing the work are so happy to be able to give, and most of them are on a journey of recovery just like I am. It’s amazing to see the growth of the garden and how it’s like a physical manifestation of their spiritual and moral growth. (OUR spiritual and moral growth; I’m on the same path)
When I worry about how small a contribution I can make I remember a story of a boy and some starfish, and most of all I remember Mark 12 and I quit worrying about how much I can give as long as it’s all I can.
43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”
And I do try to remember that no act and no amount of giving can make me worthy of Grace, but rather I do these things as a celebration of God’s love.
Thanks and just a warning, I have like… at least 6 cloud poems in my head so watch out! God bless.