I went to Community Kitchen in Bloomington for a free meal this evening and it was among the hardest things I've ever done.
I have gone two-to-two with governors, senators, representatives -- you name it. Then-U.S. Representative Mike Pence once said in an editorial meeting, "The worst thing I could hear at my front door was, 'Hi, my name is Rich Jackson and I have some questions for you.'"
I drove into the parking lot on Rogers Street -- I had a car and was the only one -- to see about a dozen people waiting for dinners. It seemed at least to me I was lesser than them because I had a hotel room, I had some meager savings -- hell, I had a car.
But I'm attempting to stretch my savings because I don't know how long this thing -- unemployment, shifting from place to place -- is going to last. I had called someone from United Way early on and the caring person said, "Don't pay for food in Bloomington. You can get healthy, nutritious meals and save your money."
I had stockpiled some shelf-stable food at the beginning of the pandemic, including too much pudding. That began to run low this week. Plus, I had to move some packed boxes from an unused garage at the newspaper or be forced to lose them so I spent a good chunk of the day loading and moving my belongings to the garage of a local friend. God bless friends. A half dozen folks showed up, including some people I've never met in person.
But I was exhausted. As I like to say, I was old, fat, stupid and tired -- a refrain when someone asks how I'm doing. I needed some help, such as prepared food.
Following protocol, I called a phone number and the woman said I could choose between having someone bringing me the meal or coming inside as only volunteers were inside. I think I felt as small as I ever had. I went inside, never having been and the volunteer was as gracious as anyone I've ever met. I mumbled something about how this was the first time I'd ever been so she walked me through the offerings. A hot meal along with a packed cold meal I could eat later. No questions about who was I or what was my need.
They gave me a hot meatball sandwich, green beans with bacon and a fresh salad. I don't think I had a salad in a couple months. I ate a real meal, like an adult.
What killed me, made me teary were the toppings on my two boxes. A fistful of candies and a bag of chips.
This wasn't just some food distribution line where mass-produced slop is ladled out without concern. It was more like a couple of friends gave me some food after a celebration.
Good lord, the blessings kill me.