It was June of 2010, I spent the last couple years volunteering for The Food Bank in Omaha. I was still figuring out my life since being diagnosed bipolar. Managing the good with the bad days seemed unbearable to me some days. When I was volunteering at The Food Bank helping with community outreach programs, I was at ease.
On this day in June I was extremely excited to get started with The Food Bank’s produce stands. I signed-up for the produce stands on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The stands were in parts of Omaha where the need was greatest for food.
On my first day, I got to the location of the produce stand about a half hour before the produce truck got there. When I pulled into the parking lot of the Washington Library in Omaha, Nebraska I had a hard time finding a parking place. I finally got to a parking spot and found a long line of people waiting for the produce to arrive.
Slowly I walked to the line full of people. I spotted a Hispanic woman in line with her four small children. I walked up to them and started to say hello.
“No hablo english,” she said looking at me with her beautiful, but sad brown eyes.
Oh no, I thought. My Spanish was slim to none.
“Hola!” I said with a smile.
“Hola, hablo espanol? Necesito ayuda,” she said, while trying to keep her babies, who looked like twins, from crying. She said she needed help.
“No, No, ah, ah…triste,” I said trying to remember the word sorry in Spanish, “I don’t understand,” I said. I was getting frustrated because I couldn’t communicate with her.
She started trying to speak to me in Spanish and showing me what she needed. I was having a really hard time understanding what she was trying to tell me. Her children were all crying at this point. She broke down.
“Excuse me,” I said, yelling to the line, “Is there anyone here that can speak Spanish and help me out?”
“I can help,” someone yelled from the line.
“Can you please help me understand what the needs are of this mother? I’m having a hard time understanding,” I said.
The translator and the mother had an emotional conversation as I looked intently.
“She asked when the food would be here. Her children haven’t eaten since yesterday morning and they are hungry and thirsty. She has no money and she's is having a real hard time right now. Her husband just died,” the translator said as his eyes were welling up with tears.
“The truck will be here in 15 minutes. Tell her I need to run to my car. I have two granola bars and some water,” I said as I quickly left them and headed to my car.
As I was running to my car tears started to stream down my cheeks. My stomach was churning and my throat began to feel tight. My knees began to weaken as I got to my car. Keep it together, I told myself, over and over again. This lady needs your strength. Now is not the time to break down.
I got to my car to find two granola bars and three unopened bottles of water. Thank goodness, I thought to myself.
The translator was holding one of the twins when I walked up. The baby was screaming and he was frantic.
“Let me try and calm her. Here you take the granola bars and the water.” I said, holding my hands out for the baby.
As the children were given the granola bars and water they all started to calm down. The fear in the mother’s eyes started to disapate.
“Can you please ask the mother her name?” I asked the translator.
“Maria, her name is Maria. She would like to know your name,” the translator asked as the children were now completely content with the food and water that I brought.
“My name is Sarah,” I said while I was calming the baby. Just about that time the produce truck pulled up to the library.
I gave the baby back to Maria and went to the truck to help unload the produce.
“How are you?” the driver asked. I’m sure he could tell my eyes were red from crying .
“There is a mother that is in line and her children haven’t eaten since yesterday morning. Do we have any food on the truck that I can take to her right now? I had a couple granola bars and some water but that’s all they’ve had and there are four of them,” I said with a weak voice.
“Here, let’s take care of that first,” the driver said as he went into the truck and started getting food for Maria and her children.
Just as we got the bag ready to take out to Maria she came over to the truck with the translator. The translator wanted us to know that she wanted to help us unload the truck and set up the tables. I grabbed the food we bagged for her and handed it to her.
“Please tell her to feed her children. We can unload the truck,” I said sternly.
Maria took the food to her children and instantly came back to the truck and helped us unload and set up. The produce stand was open for an hour. We went until we were completely out of produce.
It was time to take down the produce stand. I looked up and Maria was standing there with tears in her eyes. She gave me a big hug.
“Gracias, gracias,” she said with giant tears in her eyes.
I smiled at her as a tear came to my eye.
Maria helped us take down the produce stand as her children played in the yard at the library. We finished up and it was time to leave. Maria hugged me again. I wanted to say so many things to her, but I couldn't with our language barrier. Instead I took her hand and squeezed it and said a prayer.
I left the produce stand thinking about life. I wanted to do more. Help more people, touch more lives. How could I do that? How could I make more of a difference?