Real Stories: How Low is Low?
December 10, 2010 § 5 Comments
Buster Johnson visited the Capital Area Food Bank for the first time this week. He graciously shared his story with us.
by Buster Johnson
It is the 4th week of being unemployed. I haven’t stayed in my home since May and Christmas is less than 3 weeks away. The room I am renting costs me $100 per week. So after rent, I keep $50 per week of my unemployment for me and give the rest to my soon to be ex-wife. She gets $250 per week. I hate not being able to do more.
I applied for food stamps and while waiting in line I noticed that there was enough tattoo ink in the room to pay my mortgage for several months. I am the only white male in the room. Some people come with their entire family to apply. For me to apply makes me feel like I have given up hope on things getting better. This was a tough day but not the toughest to come.
At the advice of a friend, I went by the food bank. The waiting room was very nice. I sat there for 30 minutes observing others that were coming in and out. One of the conversations was about the 22” rims one of the guys was buying for his truck. I thought to myself that the price of these rims would pay child support and spousal support for over two months. My mind can’t comprehend a meal at restaurant much less wasting money on rims for a used truck.
Eventually a young lady came out to bring me some papers. I thought there would be a lot of justifying that had to be done before they gave me any food. I was wrong. She started handing me the first piece of paper while explaining its purpose. Her name was Vanessa. Immediately she started encouraging me. She said, “Buster, I know this is eating at your pride having to ask for help. But I want to assure you that there are better days ahead. You are going to be ok. This will pass.” While fighting back the tears, I told her, “I have never done this before.”
As she distributed to me more and more papers on where to get help, she continued with her soft voice encouraging me. She could tell that I was devastated having to ask for food. She didn’t know how I had gotten to this state but started giving me a short story on where she had come from. She is 39 years old, about 10 more than I would have guessed. Her story of being on the streets at 19 and raising her son on her own and not having any parents to turn to because her parents were drug addicts was impressive.
She had someone bring me a bag of food. She was recovering from a female type surgery so she had to have someone else serve me. We looked through the bag and then she escorted me to the back and told me to pick out an additional bag of food.
As I was preparing to leave, she said one more time, “Buster, you are going to be ok. There are some great things ahead for you.” While I stood there with a bag in each hand fighting back tears, unsuccessfully, she put her arms around me and whispered, “You are going to be ok,” and she held me for what seemed like a minute.
Her kindness was so unexpected along with her affection. I have new friends most of which are a long ways away. Out of the blue someone showed me some love. That was so nice.
I am learning to suck up my pride and not believe that once I accept help that I will always need help. I have a new heart for the Food Banks. There is a list of references to say that I am a benevolent man. What I have discovered about me is that I am not a good receiver. I typically feel indebted when someone does something for me. I do not feel indebted to the food bank but I do feel inspired to give to them for others and I also feel like volunteering will be away to get my ‘feel good’ back. My inspiration about the food bank is more like an epiphany. I could only hope to be the type of encouragement that Vanessa was to me.
Life is good.