Wednesday, December 11, 2013

An Unexpected Lesson Learned from the North Texas Icemaggedon 2013

I spent a good deal of the great North Texas Icemaggedon of 2013 reading, writing, cooking, and hanging out on Facebook. I was comfortable in my tiny home with my fire going and heater keeping the indoors at a balmy 64 degrees. There was just too much ice and an inability to remove it in a reasonable time. The new word we all learned: cobblestone ice. I actually had to get in it Monday for jury duty...not fun at all and I fully understand anyone who didn't want to leave their house and get out in it (my mom did have to go to work, and I finally understood her terror at driving in that ice!).

The chatter on Facebook was hilarious. Cabin fever after spending two days with their children, which then extended into three, then four. Videos of ice falling off of buildings and onto cars was tragic. Lots of people decorated for Christmas (my decorations are in my very cold garage, so I'm STILL not decorated!). Everyone was cooking and taking pictures of their food. I did it. I was lucky to have a very well stocked pantry.

Then there were the pictures of the grocery stores. Empty shelves everywhere, especially the bread isles. Now, I've always joked that storms mean a French Toast panic because all the milk, eggs, and bread get bought up. That's usually all I ever say when people post these pictures. Many people had quite a bit more to say, though, usually making fun of all the people panicking about not having food and how stupid they were to do that...and why bread?

It didn't really hit me until I finally got back to school after my jury duty stint how important that bread could be to people. As I was talking to my students before school started this morning, several of them mentioned just how glad they were for the ice to be gone because they were able to eat more than sandwiches. One young lady in particular spent the entire ice storm taking care of her little brothers and sisters because her mother stayed at the nursing home where she works as a nurse aid to care for the residents. Before the storm hit, her mother only had time to grab a few items at the store, including three loaves of bread. This 17 year old young lady was responsible for making sure her four siblings had something to eat from Friday until Monday, when her mother finally was able to come home. They went through all the bread during that time. This family is poor and heavily relies on other sources for meals, including school breakfasts and lunches, and meals prepared at the church on Sundays. That’s six extra meals missing for five people they were not anticipating. 

Who really anticipated that, on Thursday night, most North Texans wouldn't really be able to leave their homes until sometime late Monday? While I was finding item after item to cook and having a grand ol' time of it, with many leftovers for the rest of the week, there were people who only had those loaves of bread, cartons of eggs, or milk. Not everyone has the money to have more than just a weeks' worth of food, especially families who have to make food go just a little bit further during the month of December, in anticipation of their children being out for the two week Winter Break and will no longer have access to breakfast and lunch at school. If you looked at the closure lists, one always sticks out for me: Meals on Wheels. What do those people who benefit from meals being delivered to them do when it gets icy? Do they have something "a little extra" in their pantry to tide them over? Do their neighbors watch out for them? Or, do they just not eat? The human body can go several days without eating, but your system needs nourishment to keep the organs running properly. There's a reason for the saying "fuel your body, feed your mind."

This takes me back to those photos of the bread isles that were all over Facebook and other news sites. Some of the comments were extremely snarky and judgmental. Not thinking about others and their situations is the ultimate in self-righteousness, demeans the human spirit, and takes away basic humanity. I'm not trying to turn around and judge those people, but the situation does beg to question: what right do you have to make assessments on other people when it comes to food? For my young lady, those three loaves of bread were what kept her family fed for four days. I'm sure that there are thousands of other similar stories like this all across North Texas. Should that be criticized?

Take this time to look over those full pantries of yours, if you have one, and see what you might be able to donate to the food banks. They are going to be hit extra hard this year and the need will be even greater due to the storm. For more information, visit the Tarrant Area Food Bank, or North Texas Area Food Bank for donation information. Also, check out Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County. They can always use volunteers.