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There’s a fine, fine line

“There’s a fine, fine line between a fairy tale and a rhyme,” goes the witty song in Avenue Q. I have been noticing these fine lines lately — they are appearing on my face around the eyes and mouth, and also in my daily life. The lines are most visible to me at the food pantry, as the distinctions between my life and the clients’ lives become quite blurry.

I was inspired to volunteer at North Fulton Community Charities by my friend Rochelle. She worked a number of shifts there in the fall and found it to be a humbling experience. It is not like the Atlanta Community Food Bank, where you spend several hours in a warehouse sorting and boxing up food to be distributed to food pantries throughoutNorthwest GA.When you volunteer at NFCC, you actually hand the bags of groceries to the clients, sometimes exchanging a few words with them. “Do you need to take the buggy to your car? You can just bring it back in a few minutes.” “There is no Similac, so I gave you Enfamil with iron, okay?” “Azucar? No, lo siento. Quieres Splenda?”

At first I was concerned about this personal contact. In order to be helpful to the clients and efficient as a pantry volunteer, it is necessary to maintain some distance. At the same time, I cannot stop from making eye contact, smiling and offering a few kind words. The first time a client grabbed my arm and said, “Thank you. God bless,” I was sure I would lose it. But I held it together until I got to my car at the end of the shift. God has already blessed me and I am so grateful. I may not have a full-time job right now, but I have a spouse who earns enough to feed our family. And I can walk into the supermarket to buy fresh fruits and vegetables any time I want.

What separates the person filling the grocery bags in the pantry from the person receiving them in the lobby? An unanticipated illness? An insurance hike following a car accident? A salary cut or enforced furlough time at work? Is it just luck or circumstance or fate that I’m the one saying “take care” and hearing “God bless?” There’s a fine, fine line.

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