To the Editor:
I’ve just read the letter written by Arlan Wise in regards to the food pantry, in addition to the comments written on The Times website. It’s long been an issue on this Island — the haves vs. the have nots. Us vs. them. The Americans vs. the illegals. In other words, those who deserve something, and those who don’t. Whether it’s food, affordable housing, Red Stocking toys, MassHealth eligibility, everyone seems to have an opinion over who is entitled to something and who isn’t.
To me, the Island Food Pantry is the most important charitable group on-Island. Are there other amazing ones? Sure. It’s great to help school kids go on exciting trips, to support music and the arts, to help build homes for people who otherwise could not afford the enormous cost of doing so here, and so on, and so forth. But the need to eat is second to none. I knew very little about the food pantry before this week, just that it was represented by a box at the grocery store that I occasionally threw food into on my way out of the store. I still know little about it, other than that people are permitted to go every two weeks, and there are very few factors involved in getting “qualified” to get a bag of food.
Now, many have said that people show up in expensive cars, are here illegally so therefore do not deserve this service, and in general take advantage of the food pantry although they are not in need. I am a very proud person. I would literally need to weigh 80 lbs. and be starving to show my face at that food pantry and ask for help. Or, and this is a big or, I would need to be a mother, which I am, and do whatever I needed to do to make sure my kids ate. Even if that meant swallowing my pride and asking for a bag of food, every two weeks, for free, which probably doesn’t even last these families but a few days.
I have a hard time believing that someone who could afford a luxury car would waste their time showing up at the food pantry for a couple days worth of food, knowing that on a small Island such as this they could very well see these volunteers just about anywhere, and know that they know they come in for food. Because it’s a very hard and humbling thing to have to ask someone to help you. Even if you are not at fault for your situation and you’ve just fallen on hard times, it’s very hard to swallow one’s pride and have to admit that you are unable to provide the most basic of needs for your family — that of food.
While I find it to be revolting that anyone would do this, to show up to such a necessary and wonderful cause, and literally take food from children, the elderly, and others in desperate need, I would never allow this to stop me from donating food. If I’m unwittingly feeding a family that drives a BMW and makes over 100K a year, then that’s their problem. And these people do have a problem and should be pitied even more than those you are helping out by donating food. Because these people obviously never had a positive figure in their lives to tell them right from wrong. They were never taught morals and values, and that lying to take something that you are not entitled to is no better than stealing. They are the ones who have to live with themselves knowing that they are causing others who would donate, not to, just to save 25 or 30 bucks (just a guess, I have no idea what anyone gets, or how much it’s worth) every couple weeks.
If my donation helps even one needy person to put a meal on their table, I am willing to keep donating. If even one innocent child on this Island goes to bed hungry, and such a thing were to come to my attention, I’d start donating triple what I currently do, even if 90 percent of that goes to those who don’t need it. If this letter is read by even one person who is currently taking advantage of the system [and causes them] to say, “Hey, I’m gonna help take care of this problem, instead of adding to the problem”, even better.
In closing, it is not up to us to be the “moral police” and take it upon ourselves to judge who is deserving of something and who is not. If you feel the need to judge, simply do not donate. But do so knowing that innocent children and others who struggle to get by will not get that donation you otherwise would have given.
And what have you therefore done? You put yourself on the same level as that person taking advantage of the system. Because you hold the power to make a profound difference in someone’s life, but you choose not to because you let someone else’s poor judgement become yours. Be the better person. You will never be able to change how other people act. You may try to show them the light, but in real life, there are very few Ebenezer Scrooges who are able to face their shortcomings and literally become a better person overnight. Perhaps over the years they will change, and be disgusted by the person they used to be, perhaps not. The only thing you have control over is being the best person you are capable of being. That’s all I’m asking of you guys.
Have a merry Christmas everyone. Let’s all make a resolution to take better care of each other this upcoming year. Rich, poor, American, Brazilian, we’re all human beings with the same basic needs. If you always act with the intention of doing the right thing, you can never be wrong.