We rise before the sun. I check the weather on my phone, its 24F outside. I shiver at the thought and dig out a thermal undershirt, fleece skull cap, gloves and jacket. Without much conversation, we crawl in the car and drive to a desolate parking lot. I crank the old diesel box van and it clatters to life. A few minutes of window scraping, and we are off.
After what seems an arduous journey that's actually a 15 minute drive, we pull into a dark parking lot where a couple people are setting out cones and erecting a finish line structure for the brave soles that will run in this cold. "Crazy people", I think to myself as we unload our tent, tables, and a pallet of cardboard boxes.
Volunteers arrive and begin assembling boxes in the cold darkness. As the sun begins to rise, I see more bodies begin to arrive and race registration begins to setup inside the warm building. I walk in and see that the early registration the day before has netted about 800 lbs of canned goods. Volunteers load the bags of food into a van and shuttle it out to our tent. We begin unloading the van, unpacking the bags, boxing up the canned goods and stacking the boxes onto a pallet.
630 am arrives with a wave of people wearing brightly colored skin tight running gear carrying bags of canned goods. We move furiously thanking each donor, opening the bags, boxing the food, stacking the boxes.
An older woman approaches with a bag and hands it to me. I thank her and wish her a good run. I set the bag on a table and open it preparing to box the items, but the contents give me pause. Two bottles of water, three diet Cokes, and five bags of Delta complimentary pretzels. I can feel righteous indignation swelling up inside of me. I want to scream. What's the matter with people? This is not anything listed on the list of items needed by the food pantries. I think about the food collection barrel I picked up earlier in the week that had an energy shot and packs of sweet tarts in it. Do these people not understand that we are trying to provide for families that have nothing to eat? Would they really give a starving person an energy shot? Are they so isolated in their shopping mall sized houses and huge BMWs that they cannot fathom someone not eating for days? I want to shake someone.
I draw a breath and contemplate. The lady that handed me the bag was not dressed in the shiny colorful skin tight running gear. She had been wearing older sweats and running shoes. Maybe she had given from what she had. Maybe that was all she had for herself. Who am I to pass judgement. I have not been charged with that task.
We box and stack until 8 am when the race starts. We have filled two pallets with food we can deliver to community food pantries. It's not going to permanently resolve hunger in our community, but it will make a difference for several families over the next several days. I can be thankful that my family does not have to go to bed hungry and that I have been a part of making that difference in someone else's family.