On 9:27 in the morning on a Saturday the Northern Virginia Warehouse of the Capital Area Food Bank became holy ground. In an echoing space with scuffed concrete floors, dented industrial metal shelving, and rippled metal sheet siding fifteen men and women with fifteen different shades of skin tone packed five hundred and eighty bags of food and loaded them into twenty-nine large boxes.
Old and young they worked together, quietly organizing themselves into a smoothly flowing assembly line. No one person seemed to be in charge but everyone knew what needed to be done and contributed according to their talents. The young woman with a gift for opening stubborn plastic bags started the process. Then two older women doubled the bags so the heavy food items would not break through and whispered quiet prayers for the recipients. A middle-aged man added a box of applesauce and a dose of humor, and then passed the bag to the men with the cereal bars. They added their contribution and then on down the line the bag went, gaining collard greens, baked beans, spaghetti, pasta sauce and raisins before being tied off at the end and placed gently into a box. Up and down the line people talked, joked, encouraged each other, asked for breaks and pauses and shared snippets of their lives. A teenage boy and an old man walked up and down the line, removing trash and breaking down emptied containers. In less than an hour the boxes were full and the group disbanded as simply and peacefully as it had come together, with handshakes and smiles all around.
The boxes waited in the warehouse to be picked up by agencies who would deliver the food to elderly people in need, people who don’t have quite enough money each month to keep from being hungry. Each bag is designed to feed a person for a weekend, enough food to get through until another check comes in. And perhaps those bags might also deliver a dose of kindness along with the knowledge that the recipient is not alone, that many people cared enough to give the food, pack the boxes and deliver the bags on a hot and humid August day.