There he is again

There he is again

By Franca Schreiber 

There he is again, it’s Monday afternoon. Through the glass windows of the Alamosa Foodbank I can see him crossing the street.
I have no doubt, it is Charlie*. I can see his tattered jeans, tattoos all over his arms and hands, an unkempt beard, and of course, his old baseball cap, that he wears backward over his long, red-blond hair. 

The door swings open and to no surprise, Charlie enters the food bank. He goes straight to the assistance-desk and shows me his haggled driver's license.
I take a quick a look at the customer list: Charlie Smith, 50 years old, disabled.
"All right, here are 15 points for you", I say, handing him a small card.
Charlie grins and mumbles "Thank you, ma'am". Charlie is so kind and he is always in a good mood. After two month working in the Foodbank, this impressed me the most. Charlie tries to go on, he did not give up, whatever has happened in his live. 

I watch him slowly pushing a shopping-cart along the well-stocked shelves. Charlie is one of our customers who likes to get in and get out. He doesn't need much time to think or need help picking his items, he quickly decides for a package of cornflakes, some canned vegetables, a couple of macaroni and cheese packets and a jar of peanut butter.

On his way to cash in his points he stops at the doughnuts, packs one, two, three in a bag and puts another one in his mouth.
I pick up an empty box and start to count his items. Exactly 15 points.
Charlie asks for meat and ice-cream. It is hard for me to disappoint him when I can go to our freezer at home and find meat and ice-cream everyday. Today I can only offer him milk and eggs.
I suddenly remember seeing a small apple-pie in the mornings Walmart donation and quickly offer it to him.
The smile returns to Charlie’s face. "Sure, that's great!"  
I point at the boxes next to the table. They are filled up to the top with potatoes, cabbage, corn and green tomatoes.
But Charles passes by. Rather an energy drink to go. Then he takes his box, wishes me a nice day and is out of the door before I can say anything else.
"See you next week", I think to myself.

For a few minutes I am a part of his life. But what is Charlie doing outside the food bank? Where is he sleeping? How does he spend his time? What did he experience?

Only a few months ago, before I came to the U.S., I did not think much about those questions. My live was far away from poverty and homelessness. For two months I am now a volunteer of La Puente and the work at the Foodbank makes me more and more think about the injustice in our society, in Germany as well as in the U.S. How can I live in my warm house and eat whatever I want while other people have to sleep outside or have to struggle to feed themselves and their families?
After this short time here in Alamosa I feel glad about my decision to do a volunteer service so that I can give back something from my own happiness to people who are in need. 

*name is changed


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Contact Info

Mary Schaller Blaufuss
Team Leader, Global Sharing of Resources
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115