Anne Peterson

I write stories and goosebump poetry

Don’t Make These 3 Mistakes When Giving

I brought in the plastic bags. Putting them down on the table, I unload them, thankful I got to go to the food pantry today. Thankful I have something different to offer my family.

Opening the Duncan Hines box, I’m looking forward to making a cake. Cake is a luxury item.

Reaching for my large bowl, I feel like singing. Maybe things will be okay. Dumping the mix into the bowl, I smell a hint of vanilla. Breaking an egg, I see it. A small speck of darkness invading the white powdery mix. Looking closer I see another and another. Bugs! This box is full of tiny bugs.

The expiration date shows me this dessert was meant for last year. I empty the contents into the trash. I don’t feel much like singing now.

Feeling poor doesn’t feel good

I wipe a tear off of my face before my young daughter sees it. I only feel poor on certain days, this is one of them.

“I think I’ll make something else,” I say smiling.

“Why?” she asks.

“I just want to,” I lie.

Thankfulness is sometimes slippery

Struggling to hold onto thankfulness I wonder. Why do some people give away what they want to get rid of? How would they feel being on the receiving end?

I remember another trip to the food pantry. The volunteer behind the card table takes my information, asking me to take a seat.

When my name is called, I’m led to the first room. It’s set up like a grocery store in two rooms.

On the shelves are all kinds of canned goods. In another section I see boxes of cereal, boxes of crackers.

Taped to some shelves are little pieces of paper with numbers on them. The tag reads:

3-4 people in the family
2 cans

As the volunteer watches me, I take two cans. She says,“No, you only get 1 can, you have two people in your family.”

“I have three people in my family,” I whisper.

She starts to argue and then checks my card she is holding. “Oh, you’re right.”

I feel like I’ve been caught stealing, except I haven’t.

We move over to the paper goods area. I get to choose one item, either paper towels, toilet paper, or napkins. I choose toilet paper. I watch as she takes the four-pack and tears it open. She puts one roll on the shelf and hands me the three.

I hardly look up

I hear only fragments of what she’s telling me. “…all the baked goods you’d like…you can take two packs of gum or two candy bars per child.”

I stuff my feelings down and go through the motions. Thanking her, I push the metal cart out to my car. The noise from the squeaky wheels makes it impossible to slip out quietly. I hope I don’t see anyone I know.

By the time I open my trunk, my tears won’t stop. I don’t ever want to come back here again. Returning the cart I see a friend who works there. “What’s wrong?” she asks, seeing my face.

I relay my experience, letting the tears fall as they may. “I don’t think I can do this anymore. I almost brought the food back in. But I do want you to know, I have appreciated all the food I’ve ever received from here.”

“I’m so sorry,” she says, “Please come back.”

One month later

It’s that time again. Do I go to the food pantry? I play the different scenarios in my mind, but eventually I decide to try it one more time.

Something is different. No one opens the package of toilet paper to keep a roll. No one challenges me when I take my two cans of soup. I felt heard.

It’s hard to be a person in need.

It’s sad we live in a world where some people determine another person’s worth by what he/she has. Their philosophy might be, “If you have little, you are worth little.”

A missionary couple living overseas received a care package from one of their church supporters. They felt excited as they went through each item in the box. Until they opened a small container tucked in the bottom. The contents? Slivers of soap. Next to it was a small tin filled with used tea bags.

Needless to say, this couple was discouraged by the time they got to the bottom of the box.

It’s easy to make mistakes when we give. To get the mindset that the person should be satisfied with whatever he/she gets. Make sure when you give that you avoid these three no-no’s:

1)   Giving what you ought to toss out

Sometimes we need to ask ourselves, “Would I want to receive this for my family?” If not, toss it.

2)   Having strings attached to what you give

When we give freely, it means we’re giving with no expectations. If we are disappointed with how our gifts are  received, we have a small string attached.

3)  Giving only when others know it

If we cannot give anonymously at times, maybe our motives for giving aren’t right. Our gifts should be freely given which means even if they are not appreciated, it doesn’t affect us. Giving is not a spectator sport.

Receiving a gift can make a person feel loved. It can make a person feel as if they have value. On the other hand, it can also make someone feel less than, like a sliver of soap or a used teabag.

About Anne Peterson

I write words you can feel, sometimes they rhyme. If I'm not writing, I'm telling stories from my head, to little ones who call me grandma.

9 Replies

  1. Anne, this makes me feel so sad. I’m so sorry you went through this. As someone who loves to give to others, I am thankful you shared this experience and shared these mistakes. And though I hope I’ve never made them, I am thankful you’ve opened my eyes to this. Blessings to you and your family. Happy Thanksgiving, Marcie 🙂

    1. Anne Peterson

      Marcie,
      Thanks for reading and for your comments. This was not an easy article to write, but I just wanted others to consider who may be on the receiving end of whatever you give. Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving too, Marcie.

  2. katinavaselopulos

    Anne, this is a wonderful post and so timely. I remember us discussing this long time ago. I, again, feel so badly for all you have gone through. I am proud of you and admire you being transparent and teaching all of us some important lessons. Wishing you the best always…praying for you and your family.
    Love and hugs!

  3. Thanks for sharing, Anne. It couldn’t have been easy, but it certainly will enlighten. The pantry I give to has a strict policy about expired food. I don’t know what possesses people to give something they wouldn’t use themselves. God bless you.

    1. Laura,

      That’s good that your pantry has rules about expiration dates. I wonder sometimes if people just forget and end up giving food they just didn’t get around to. Not sure.

  4. Thanks for reading Katina. Yes, I thought this was worth reposting.

  5. Pat

    Thanks, Anne, for sharing your experiences with candor and grace. Your gentle approach lets the weight of the matter touch my heart without the distraction of anger. That’s a rich gift! God has truly given you a gift for communicating.

    1. Pat,

      Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful words. They really encouraged me.

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