The Food Bank I go to also offers one non-food item. It could be the little travel-size tube of toothpaste, mouthwash, or shampoo, or regular-size soap or toilet paper. It is a welcome, if limited, service. There is a church-sponsored program that supplies an alleged month's worth of non-food items, but I've turned down their services because they are a coalition of fundamentalist churches. It may be a matter of cutting off my nose to spite my face, but I refuse to be a statistic to make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside while they continue to treat my tribe like shit.
Among the Food Bank volunteers are a husband and wife team whom I always hope are on duty. She is very pretty and fun; he is friendly and, more importantly, he is physically my "type." Well, one of them: Probably in his 50s, salt and pepper hair (not particularly short), salt and pepper beard, and cute as a button. They quite clearly are still in love, and I think they like helping other people, whether they see that as a human or religious duty or they want to give back to the community. I'm always happy when they're there.
Last time, I asked for a roll of paper towels. He brought out a roll and said, "Well, it's not Brawny, but..." and his voice kind of trailed off. We both had a chuckle at this Brand X, utterly generic, probably dollar store variety of paper towels, and we moved on to choice of meat.
As I walked home, a couple of things hit me. How we trust and prefer brand names to lesser-known products. We prefer to believe the tag line (such as "the quicker picker upper") to trying something else. And I thought, "Maybe it won't pick up everything on the first pass, but it feels soft and it will absorb...and it's free."
Also, most of my professional life, I would have remarked the same as Mr. Handsome Volunteer Guy. We were far from wealthy, but Jack and I were comfortable and we would go with the name brand items. There is, after all, a certain cache when "preferred" brands are visible. However, as money became scarce, the items on sale were considered more seriously than before. Then it became a necessity to look for maybe the almost-lowest-priced items. By the time I considered suicide, the dollar store was the first stop.
It's interesting to look back, if only to appreciate where I am now. If I remember correctly (and, anymore, that's not a given), my highest income was nearly $50,000, before taxes and other deductions. I was there, I think, for two years. The job changed and I was paid less; I was laid off and was offered less when I was re-hired. Between my pension and Social Security, my income is a tad more than $23,000. That's usually over the cut-off point for any kind of social service consideration. I am very well aware and quite thankful that I am above poverty level, but between payments for this, that, and the other thing, I rarely have anything I can spend...you know, "mad money."
Once marriage equality became legal in 2015, Jack and I decided against getting married because we would both take a hit on our Social Security incomes. That's normal, that's why an unmarried grandma lives with that man...they would, essentially, be punished by the government for being married, so they live together. Jack's Social Security was for his disability; somehow, it was assumed he could survive on $500 a month...and $16 worth of food stamps. That's $6000 a year for someone the government acknowledged could not work. I did not enter into consideration because we were "just roommates."
I challenge anyone in government to live on $500 a month. It is unimaginable to me, although I know that many people have to. And some of those people have kids. "Well, they should be able to make ends meet with this." Seriously? Is that being humanitarian or socialist? Or is it more like "I've got mine; fuck you"?
I spent the last hour reviewing different English translations of the Bible story of The Good Samaritan, Luke 10: 25-37*. Except for a few word differences, the moral is the same. Who is your neighbor, the one whom you are supposed to show love and compassion toward? Oddly, not the person who shares your religious or political beliefs. Some of us think life is like that.
My life is not what it was. My husband died, I'm retired, I'll be 71 in a couple of months, I am "making do" the best I know how. This doesn't matter to the husband and wife team who work at the Food Bank. They are probably Republicans, because the majority in the area are, and they may well have voted for #45, since he won by a large margin here. They may well be of the popular religion, but I consider them worthy of the uppercase C for Christian. If they are Christian, they are trying to follow the namesake. From my viewpoint, that's pretty refreshing.
*The Parable of the Good Samaritan