In 2009, I helped a Brookline independent director premiere his debut film at the Coolidge Corner Theater. To boost attendance, we offered to accept donations for the Brookline Food Pantry from anyone who came to the theater to see the film. It seemed like everyone brought at least a can of something. We collected enough food to fill one of the Coolidge’s backrooms.
The next morning I called the food pantry to tell them where they could pick up our donation. To my surprise, the pantry said that they had no way to pick up the food from the theater. If I wanted to donate, I would have to bring it over myself.
Boy did I feel put out. My car wasn’t suited for cargo missions. I was also dressed to go to “important” meetings, and it was unseasonably hot that day. Here I was doing so much for humanity in my eyes, and they couldn’t even pick up the donation themselves!
I drove to the Coolidge, loaded my car to the gills and carted everything to where the pantry was located at St. Paul’s in Brookline. It took me several trips back and forth in that heat to lug all the bags and boxes of food from my car into the Pantry.
I was drenched in sweat, angry, tired and late for my meeting.
The sobering reality of what I experienced next changed the direction of my professional life.
As I looked around, I realized that while I had been consumed by my anger, self-pity, and self-righteousness, pantry volunteers were helping their clients shop for essential food and supplies to help them through the week.
One family at a time shopped, while other families patiently waited their turn. It seemed like every conversation was the same. Each family seemed more concerned with leaving enough food for those in line than getting as much as they could for themselves. Volunteers had to coax people to accept more; assuring everyone that no family would go unfed.
Those in line sat patiently and stoically on benches in the hallway. The courage and dignity emanating from the people who were getting assistance that day were palpable.
To my enlightenment, the clients of the food pantry seemed to look more like me that I would have imagined. In a flash, I realized my life didn’t have to take very many unfortunate turns for my family to be in that pantry line. What if my business went south? What if my wife lost her job? What if that caused us to lose our health insurance? What if we didn’t have our family to go to when times got tough? How would we make the mortgage payments or the payments on our cars? What would we do?
The fragility of my potential situation in the face of life’s circumstances hit me like a hammer.
I had to wonder if I even had the guts to overcome my ego enough to take a seat in that pantry line if my family fell on hard times. The volunteers at the Brookline Food Pantry will tell you, people who get their food from food pantries don’t want to receive handouts any more than those who don’t.
When you think about it, what could be more courageous, more noble, than overcoming your pride to wait in line at a food pantry for the sake of your family?
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more ashamed of myself than I did at that moment. It took just a few minutes of being in those trenches to realize I wanted my life to go in a different direction.
Everything that came next, The Feed Brookline dinners at Jim Solomon’s Fireplace Restaurant, making BrooklineHub.com a nonprofit, the Brookline Youth Awards and Soul Witness, The Brookline Holocaust Witness Project were inspired by those moments on that day at the Brookline Food Pantry.
The needs of the Brookline Food Pantry have grown exponentially since 2009. The Pantry is going to have a “Help Us Feed Our Neighbors” evening at the Brookline Teen Center on November 4.
We are fortunate to have the Brookline Food Pantry, with two locations, allowing us the opportunity to help our neighbors. Whether you can make it that evening or not, please purchase a ticket plus whatever you can afford.