At the risk of seeming repetitive, I’m going to use today’s column to talk about helping combat hunger, just as I did last week.
In fact, I’m even going to mention Food for Thought again, just as I did last week. Had I known that my experiences on May 2 would compel me to write about this again, I would have waited before writing the initial piece. But my column is due each Friday morning, so that my Tuesday page can be laid out ... deadlines, oy!
So I made reference to participating in an event with Food for Thought and Fifth Third Bank. But I could not have anticipated that one simple activity would impact me the way it did, such that it warrants more attention.
Every Friday night, Food for Thought volunteers gather at New Harvest Christian Church to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a picnic held at Michigan and Adams each Saturday morning, a creative way to give food to those who need it. Anyone is welcome to attend the picnic, which offers food, fun, and fellowship from 10 a.m. to noon; bagged lunches are distributed to those in attendance.
Since Fifth Third Bank engages in service work and community support throughout the year, but particularly on its “birthday” of May 3 (and the week prior), it had connected with Food for Thought to have its own employees make that week’s sandwiches. I was invited to learn more about the partnership, so I joined in the PB&J party: schmearing peanut butter, celebrating when a “triple” (inserting the end-of-loaf bread slices into the middle for an extra-generous sandwich, rather than wasting any scrap of food) was made, and chatting with those who were doing good and having fun at the same time.
Steve North, pastor and director of LifeLine Toledo, an organization dedicated to “building and facilitating organic spiritual community in the inner city” and a member of Food for Thought’s board, had given instructions for making the sandwiches. Yes, something we’ve seemingly done a half-million times in our lives required instructions. Because, as Mr. North noted, “there is a dignity, and thought, behind everything” that Food for Thought and its partnering organizations do.
So peanut butter is used on both halves of the sandwich, to keep the jelly from seeping into the bread; and a small amount of jelly is used to keep the sandwich from slipping and sliding and making a mess. It’s all about respect, and giving someone a gift of food that we, ourselves, would want to eat. Mr. North said, it’s “not a handout, but a handshake,” as the food is given with a look in the eye, a smile, a recognition of others’ humanity.
As we continued to make sandwiches and used up supplies which had generously been donated, I opened up a new jar of peanut butter ... of crunchy peanut butter. This happens to be what I have in my own cupboard, so I admittedly thought nothing of it.
Other volunteers noted it, and we all thought this made things a bit special. Mr. North very graciously came over and taught us an important lesson, one that makes perfect sense when you think about it: Food for Thought would rather not use crunchy peanut butter because many of those whom it serves lack basic necessities that the rest of us take for granted, for example, dental care.
What struck the rest of us as a treat is actually detrimental to those with tooth problems or, sadly, those whose teeth are missing who would have difficulty eating the sandwich so necessary for sustenance.
Food for Thought and LifeLine Toledo engage in tzedakah [tzeh-dah-KAH]. This is a Hebrew word generally translated as “charity,” but lacking a notion that is inherent in the original, that of a commandment. The organizations clearly believe it is incumbent upon us to care for others, and to do so with great commitment, generosity, and respect.