Essay: Can I Take This Home?

Nov 6, 2015

We’re approaching the Thanksgiving season, a time when we give thought to the abundance of food on our tables.  Lake Effect essayist Mark Siegrist knows there are some who can’t take that abundance for granted:

She stands by her mother as the grocery cart is wheeled in their direction.

A beautiful child about 7-years of age.

She has meticulously braided hair.

And a smile that stops you in your tracks.

The grocery cart is full of promise.

And she knows it.

Assorted can goods, cereal, pasta, bread, meats, produce, and milk.

The kind of retail harvest that could easily be taken for granted.

It often is.

By those of us making regular trips down other grocery aisles with debit cards in hand.

But this is different.

A gathering of souls from all walks of life.

At various stages of their journey.

Some are here to help.

Others to receive.

It doesn’t matter.

There’s a single purpose.

Survival.

Today’s economy.

The understanding that a lot of us are just a paycheck or two away from either end of that connection.

Such is the case for a few precious hours on a recent Sunday afternoon inside the Jewish Community Pantry near 29th & Center.

Absent of political thought, or preconceived notions.

Like so many other outreach programs in metro Milwaukee,  there’s no better place to volunteer for a reality check on the human condition.

The struggle, the sharing, and the hope.

And I’m so glad I did.

Where a box of corn flakes, a loaf of bread, or a bag of produce is more than a commodity.

But looked upon as a blessing during a time of transition.

A basic need in preserving one’s health, well-being, and dignity, in facing the challenges of life itself.

As the grocery cart moves closer in the little girl extends her arms.

Her expressive eyes now fixed on the coffee cake riding at the very top of the food.

“Can I take this home?” she asks the volunteer.

“Absolutely,” is the reply.

“You folks have a great day.”

And off they go toward their vehicle.

A little girl and her mom.

Revived by the moment.

Encouraged by their neighbors.

With maybe just a greater sense of, we can get through this.

Essayist Mark Siegrist is a television producer in Milwaukee.  His most recent major project is was this summer’s MPTV documentary, Milwaukee's Diamonds in the Rough.