I've been helping out at the local food bank for the last few months. I know it seems a strange thing to say, but I enjoy it. I don't enjoy seeing other people's misery, of course, but I enjoy it for the fact that I can do something worthwhile and for the people I meet - both helpers and guests.
The helpers are either local church members or retired people like me just wanting to do something useful or people who have been in that situation themselves in former times. All very friendly and caring. What's not to like? I've made a quite a few friends over the recent months by going in on the different days it operates.
As for the guests, as they are known, it varies according to the day of the week, the weather and what is on offer, but approximately 40 to 100 guests turn up for each session. Some days they get to sit and chat with others over a cup of tea and a bit of cake, as well as collect their free shopping bags full of tins, toiletries, bread and fruit, all donated by individuals, church collections or local supermarkets. On the busiest day, they get a two-course sit-down cooked meal, as well as their shopping bags. There is a washing machine, a shower and advice on benefits or housing. There's even an art class and a choir. The charity that runs it believes in a holistic approach to get them back on their feet. Not all are capable of getting back on their feet, but for some it is a temporary crutch while they are ill or homeless or jobless. Some are alcoholics, drug addicts or have mental health issues. It is not for the faint-hearted. A few weeks ago, a fight broke out between two of the alcoholic guests with punches thrown. It was amazing to see how the other guests leaped in to break it up, as it was not acceptable to them to see their foodbank abused. The majority are so grateful to receive anything and will politely thank us for whatever little we can give them. It is so humbling.
I can't help thinking when I see some of the inebriated guests, that it could have been Greg, if I had been unable to cope any more and had decided to leave him. Or me, if our finances had disappeared in a puff of smoke and alcohol, as they seemed to be heading at one stage. A part of me feels that, although I cannot save Greg, at least I am doing something positive to help another poor soul in need and I like to hope that, if Greg had ended up on the streets, there would have been someone in a foodbank somewhere to look after him.