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A Story of Strawberries and a Caring Feeding Hands Heart

Her name is Mary, but to us at Feeding Hands she is affectionately known as Motel Mary. She is homeless and lives in a motel room. Every month Feeding Hands delivers food to her at her motel room. Every month as I drive into the parking lot of the motel, she is in the window of her room, just waiting. As I back into the parking spot to unload the boxes and bags, the door opens and there she is. She usually has a mask on now because she would do absolutely nothing to endanger me.

You might wonder if Mary is lazy, unmotivated, or just wanting a handout. Nothing could be farther from the truth. She has a caseworker, who is the one who referred her to Feeding Hands. She has doctors for her heart and for her problem feet. She relies on the county to get her to her appointments. If she calls far enough ahead a county mini-bus picks her up and delivers her to where she needs to go. Without that bus she wouldn’t be able to go anywhere. She has just had a really hard life and needs help to survive. And she is just so grateful for any help she receives.

Please don’t get me wrong. There is so much that she can’t fix. Mary has no family. Her only source of income is Social Security, but almost all that pays for her motel room – her home – and for her phone. In the past six months or so, she was finally approved for food stamps. She gets $150 a month and orders from the ShopRite site on her phone. $150 doesn’t go very far, especially when you have to pay for the food to be delivered. Her room has a motel sized refrigerator and a small microwave. I always bring her a box that Feeding Hands volunteers have packed specifically for people who only have a microwave. She always pulls the box open while I am still standing there in her doorway, so excited for what surprises may be inside. And then she always starts to cry. They are tears of joy and just so much gratitude.

I first got to know Mary before masks hid our faces from each other. She is missing most of her teeth. Her scraggly gray hair sticks out in all directions, and in all this time I’ve only seen her in a couple of different outfits. I completely understand that Mary has some mental health concerns, but that’s ok. There are others who are helping her in those areas. If there weren’t, Feeding Hands would step in and refer her to the services she needs. The role right now for Feeding Hands is to give her the food that she needs to both survive and hopefully, thrive, and for me as a Feeding Hands volunteer to be there when I say I will be, to call her every couple of weeks, to bring her the healthy food that she needs, and to listen with both my ears and my heart as I stand there in her doorway. This week Mary told me how happy her doctor is because she has gained some weight. She told him that it is because of the food that Feeding Hands provides to her.

“If you have food, share it with those who are hungry”

Luke 3:11

Mary has one thing that she loves more than anything else and that is strawberries. Those of us on the Feeding Hands team have come to know that and when a really red, ripe package of strawberries comes our way we are very likely to set it aside for Mary. This past week I delivered her food to her. She was so excited and grateful, as she always is. I put the boxes and bags down on the floor of her room and then asked her to check in one particular bag. “Strawberries!!!” she yelled, and then she started to cry.

They are just strawberries to me, and I can buy them for myself any time I’d like to. To Mary, however, they are a wonderful gift! I’ve told Mary all about Feeding Hands – who we are and why we do what we do. She understands and she is just so grateful. A few weeks will pass, she will be running low on food, and she will again be waiting in her window for me with my boxes and bags of food – and her strawberries. There is just something about watching someone literally hugging a package of strawberries that changes my life again every time I see it. I expect that it always will.

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