December 22, 2009

Food Bank

I blogged a couple weeks ago about an experience I had at Starbucks. In that post I talked a lot about wanting to volunteer and give back this Christmas. Well, I did just that!

My mom, brother and I decided to volunteer at the food bank this last Friday and Saturday. On Friday, all we did was get shipments of food, sort the food into different baskets and bag up the produce. We spent most of our time bagging up oranges, potatoes, apples, pears and onions. This produce came from grocery stores. Once the grocery stores can no longer sell the produce, it is sent to the food bank. All of the produce is still edible, but it doesn't look very appetizing. Although the fruit had dirt on it and brown spots, for someone who really needed the food and was hungry, the food was good enough.

When we got to the food bank on Saturday morning, the employees explained to us how the food bank works. Each family gets a green card and it says how many people are in their family. If the family has less than 2 people on their card, they get one item out of each bin. If the family has 3-5 they get two items out of each bin, and so on. My mom and I were at the produce station. I was in charge of a basket of oranges and then a miscellaneous basket of fruit. Depending on the number of people in the family, they could take one bag of oranges and one bag of miscellaneous fruit. My mom was in charge of potatoes, onions and a miscellaneous basket of vegetables.

I had a lot of expectations of what I thought the food bank would be like. I thought the families were going to be so appreciative and so thankful. Boy was I wrong. For most (not all)of the families, this was a way of life. They came through the line at the food bank like they were on a mission to get the best food and get as much as they could shimmy out of us. We were told to hand out the bags of produce and not to let the families rummage through the bins. I remember on lady came through the line and she had a one on her card, meaning she was the only person in the family. She turned her nose up to all of the fruit I offered her and went on to tell me how gross the fruit looked. What did she expect?! Shes at the food bank! If you are really that poor, I would have thought you would be grateful for ANY food that was offered to you. Just because the oranges have a little dirt on them doesn't mean they are bad, wash them off! Another woman came through the line and tried to hackle everyone for more food. We weren't allowed to hand out more food to people because they wanted to have enough for everyone (there were about 500-600 families that came). Once this woman got her vegetables from my mom, she bent down, opened her bag and stole several bags of green onions out of a basket next to my mom. Another man came through the line and caused quite the commotion because he thought us volunteers stole his reusable bags.

I was shocked. Of the 500-600 people that came through the food bank, I bet less than 20 people said thank you. It was as if we owed them this food. The families seemed a little bitter towards us as well, like that we thought we were better than them, which is so far from the truth. Most of the people were elders or disabled. Several people who came though had on nice designer jeans and designer purses.

I am happy that I was able to give back to my community but I was very shocked by what I saw. I didn't volunteer at the food bank for a pat on the back from the families at the food bank, so I really shouldn't be complaining. Although there were many negatives at the food bank, there were also many positives. There was a young mom and her children who came through the line. My brother was handing out danimal yogurts. The little boys eyes lit up when he saw the danimals yogurt. Its little moments like seeing the little boys eyes light up that made the experience so fulfilling. I was also surprised at a couple mothers who came through the line. I would hand them a bag of apples and they would say 'No thank you, I still have an apple sitting on the counter at home. I'll leave those apple for someone who really needs them'. It was nice to see that some people would only take what they needed and leave the food for someone else who needed the food more than them.

All in all, it was a fulfilling experience and I hope to continue volunteering and giving back to my community.

December 3, 2009

Moments That Change Our Lives

We all have moments in our lives that change us forever. Sometimes these moments break us and turn our lives upside down. In the end, everything happens for a reason whether it be to open our eyes or to make us stronger. I can think of three instances in my life that have truly impacted me and made me a stronger person. One of these instances happened on December 9th, 2004.

I can remember this day like it was yesterday. I was a junior in high school and had just got my license. I drove a 1993, white mustang with red interior. I remember the day I bought the car. My Dad made me buy the car and I sat on my porch and cried. I couldn't believe I was going to have to drive that car. My friends all had new cars that their parents had bought them. Not going to lie, I was insanely jealous of them. They drove brand new cars while I drove an old mustang with red interior. My friends always joked that they could see me coming from a mile away because of my red interior. Although it wasn't the car of my choice, I began to love that car, after all, my hard earned money bought that car. I always poked jokes about my car in front of my friends. I would always say 'I just want to roll that car so I can get a new one!'. I suppose I spoke too soon...

On December 9th, I was at my boyfriend's (at the time) house about to leave to make it home for dinner. He was joining my family for dinner that evening and was going to follow me to my house. Before I hopped in my car, I remember feeling like there was a rock in my stomach. Something wasn't quite right for some reason. I got in my car and something told me not to lock my doors (which I always do). Another thought popped in my head. I remember thinking that I should have told him I love him in case I die. Very weird. So, I told him I loved him and drove off. I pulled out of his neighborhood and got into the right hand turn lane. The straight/left hand turn lane was backed up and the cars were at a complete stop. I sped right past the stopped cars.

And then it happened.
A gold car that had been stopped in the other turn lane decided it wanted to turn right instead. The gold car inched its front out into the right hand turn lane. My first reaction was to swerve out of the way. My car popped up over the curb and ran into a rockery. Since it was raining, my car slipped on the rockery and rolled. It all happened in slow motion. I remember hanging from my seat belt and seeing nothing but glass and pavement. I didn't know what to do so I just screamed. A man appeared and ripped open my door just enough to pull me out of my car. (If I would have locked my doors, my door would have been jammed shut). I got out of the car and the man was no where to be seen. It was almost as if he wasn't there at all, we like to think it was my guardian angel. My boyfriend hopped out of his car and called the ambulance. The gold car didn't stop for a second, just drove off. I may not have hit the car, but there is no way they didn't see or hear my car roll. 17 (hot) firefighters came to the scene and were shocked I was ok. They strapped me to stretcher and took me to the hospital in case of internal injuries.

I walked away from the crash with a fat lip from my airbag, that's it. I also walked away from that accident with a lesson I will never forget. Life can be taken from somebody in a matter of seconds with no warning. This was the moment I realized there are so many things to accomplish before my time here is over. When it is my time to go, I want to be remembered as someone who has done great things and has made an impact in people’s lives. I’ve learned to never take anything for granted. My accident gives me motivation to work hard and strive for excellence.

I have a motto in life. "I swear, by my life and my love for it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." I live my life for me and nobody else. I am going to do what I want, when I want. I remember when I decided I wanted to start running, I asked friends of mine to run with me. Of course, everyone had so many excuses of why they couldn't run with me. If I would have waited for someone to run with me, I would still be waiting. I am going to run the Eugene Marathon because there is no better time than now. If I have to run it alone, so be it. I can't live my life waiting for someone to join me in the activities and adventures that await me. I have to go out and accomplish things on my own.

At home, I keep a picture of the car and the mangled license plate from my accident next to my bed as a little reminder of just how lucky I am.

Life is short. There is no better time than now :)