The Face of Hunger – Pay it Forward

I know that I may come across as pious – railing against Big Food / Processed Food.  The fact of the matter is, I am blessed.   I am blessed to have a choice.  Blessed to be housed and well fed.  Everyone should be so blessed.  Sadly, they are not.

I personally, have never looked directly in the face of hunger.  I have helped those that have, I have seen the face of hunger, which by the way, is quite different than being the face of hunger.

Early this morning I headed to the market. Shopping for ‘real’ food was on my mind.  I scored 5 pounds of Organic Ground Beef for $5. a pound.  Organic carrots, Organic Broth, Organic Broccoli, apples and peaches.

I got in line to check out behind a tall black man with a large cart of food. I was in no hurry, so I didn’t even think to switch lines.  I watched him unload his groceries, he checked the total often.  Toward the end of his cart, he asked the checker to stop and total his order. Looking at the total, he glanced into the cart, paced a little bit and then shrugged his shoulders. He apologized to the cashier.  He had reached his max, he would have to return the rest.  He looked back at me and apologized for the delay.

It struck me, it was the middle of the month and this family had run out of money for food.

I looked at what was left behind in his cart. There were items to make meals!  A large package of chicken legs, a bag of potatoes, 2 cans of Pasta sauce, a package of pasta, a package of Italian seasoned Ground Turkey, a package of cheese.  Store brand Grits, yogurt, hot dogs and a cheap package of cookies.

He had obviously shopped carefully.

“Sir, can I please pay for the rest of your groceries.”  I said, with my eyes fogging up.

“What?  Really? You don’t have to do that!”

“I know I don’t HAVE to, but I would like to, because I can.  Please, allow me to do this.”  I glanced away, I was about to cry.   I didn’t want him to see my tears.

We quickly unloaded the rest of the groceries and explained to the cashier.

You have blessed my family, Thank You.”

All I could choke out was, “You are welcome. Thank You for letting me do this.”  as I looked down and punched in my PIN to pay for the groceries.

I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know what more to say to him.  I should have looked him in the eye and wished him well.  I could have said, “Good job, Dad.”.  I could have shook his hand.

The last thing I heard was, “Thank You.”

I looked up too late, he was gone.

I was embarrassed, by my emotion and inability to put those emotions into words. I should have wished him well and told him that he blessed me far more than I blessed him.  I hope he knows that.

$26.27 bought this man’s family at least 4 dinners and a few snacks.  Hopefully, it brought him some faith in humanity.  It brought me joy and blessings.  I wish I could have expressed that to him.

We have all heard of ‘Pay it Forward‘.  I must say, it is far easier to Pay it Forward in the line at Starbucks, for those who can afford their coffee, than it is in the line of the grocery store when looking into the face of hunger.

If you get the opportunity and have the means, please pay it forward.   You will be blessed.

Posted in Real Life permalink

About Baking Nana

Each morning my granddaughter Sarah calls to ask, “Watcha doing, Nana? Are you baking Nana?” Hence my “name” Baking Nana. I am a mother to three wonderful children and a grandmother to 12 very hungry grandkids. I don’t bake fancy cakes but I do make wonderful yeast bread and home cooked meals made with love.


The Face of Hunger – Pay it Forward — 26 Comments

  1. What a wonderful and heart touching story! I love when people can and are able to pay it forward. I am sure you touched this mans heart more than any of us know! Thanks for being so kind, caring and giving! I must pass on what I witnessed yesterday while getting gas at Ralph’s. As I am pumping my gas, a young man probably 20 or so and kind of grungy, walked straight up to the garbage can directly in front of me. I didn’t think a whole lot about it as I see people dig in garbage a for recyclables all the time. He started digging and soon I realized he was not after recyclables but maybe food and or a drink. I asked the young man if I could purchase him something, he didn’t respond. He was still digging and eventually pulled out a Wendy’s cup with something in it. He proceeded to drink whatever was in that cup. My heart was breaking and my eyes were quickly filling with tears. I asked him again, “sir, can I please buy you some water, soda anything to drink, and how about some lunch?” The young man looked at me and said, “no, I am fine.” I told him that I would love to get him whatever he needed. Again, the answer was no. He moved on and I just stood there with tears in my eyes. I wanted to help him so much, my heart was just aching! I watched as he continued from one garbage can to another, in search of food and drinks. I got in my car and proceeded to have tears just flow. I wanted to help this young man so badly but yet he did not want the help. I thanked God for the life he has given me and my family and prayed for this young man. I was not able to pay it forward to this young man by purchasing food and drinks but in a small way I did pay it forward-I prayed for him that he may be safe, be given or find the food, drinks and shelter that he needed. Wish I could of helped more.

    • How heart breaking! Thanks for trying! He knows that someone cared enough to notice and offer assistance.
      I know that I will start carrying water and a ‘grub bag’ or two in my car.
      The need is great. I do believe that mental illness plays a big role.
      Heart breaking – this is someones child, when he was born I am sure this is not what his parents envisioned for their child.
      Thank You for your kindness and for caring enough to offer.

  2. I thought about you on Sunday. Where were you – oh, right, a continent away in California. I made Hailie’s birthday cake and discovered I didn’t have 10X sugar. Ran to the store, went through self-check…….and realized that when I changed my clothes after church I had left all my money and cards on my night stand! I had no money all at with me. Luckily I was close to home so I dashed home and got money. The clerk held my bag; it all worked out. But I just kept thinking, “Where’s Penny?”.

    • Oh Janet! I wish there had been someone in line behind you to help!
      It is my hope that people across the country will take up the the chance to pay it forward.
      Someone missed an opportunity to help you!

      • When I went back the clerk said she thought about and wished she had bit she was afraid she would have gotten in trouble with the management for doing it.

  3. I recently attended a meeting at church about different strategies for saving and building money for retirement. Ironically the first thing what was discussed was about giving 10% of your money away because in giving it always comes back to you. Your story is a great example of this.

    Your story also reminds me of a note from my mother-in-law found last year in her journal after she passed. “Give of yourself every day of your life. Be there for whoever needs you. The payback is there in their face. Don’t wait for a thank you. Reach out again and again. God rewards you a hundred times over. And I don’t mean money.”

    Thank you, once again, for sharing your wonderful story. It’s now got me thinking again of what I can do to pay it forward. With our busy lives it can become easy to lose this focus. Thanks BN!

    • Kelly, Your Mother in Law was a very wise woman. I am sure she was a blessing to everyone who knew her.
      To give with strings attached, isn’t really giving, is it?
      We do tend to get busy and short sighted. I am glad I wasn’t in a hurry yesterday morning. There was a reason I was supposed to be there at just the right time. God had a lesson for me.

  4. From someone who has been there…I hope you never have to understand just what you did means to that person. To be in that situation is so very hard. Thank you for showing us that it’s ok to love and help each other out.

    • Thank you for your comment, Jen. I can only imagine how hard it really is. Beyond a few meals, I hope this family knows that there are people who care. I can’t imagine that man going home without enough food to feed his family.
      What is that saying? ‘Until you have walked a mile in those shoes…’ I hope I never have to walk that mile.

  5. Sitting here in tears after reading this! My husband and I don’t usually donate through charities because of all of the scams and corruption that you hear about, but we do help directly to people we can when we see a need. Love this! You are a kind, caring person Penny, God Bless you!

    • Kim, like you I am always skeptical of where the money goes. I think it hardens our hearts when we learn of the scams and corruption. You touched on something when you said, “when we see a need.” We have to be willing to see, to be open and actually look into the face of need. It is very unsettling.
      Blessings come in many forms, I am blessed.

  6. “Pay it forward” works because of people like you, whose kindness plants a seed for the next thoughtful act. Thank you for sharing!

    • Good morning, Rae. I am sure that given the opportunity, this man will pay it forward and plant another seed of kindness. I would like to think that someone would help one of my loved ones, if they were in need and not look the other way.

  7. I understand, Penny! Thanks for sharing and encouraging us to look for opportunities to share. It’s very easy to stay in our “bubble”.

    • It is very difficult to look at the face of hunger, I think that is why so many look away, it makes us uncomfortable. I was meant to be in that line yesterday. Not so much to pay for a few groceries, but to open my eyes and touch my heart. Believe me when I say, I received far more than I gave.
      I am blessed.

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