Friday, December 12, 2008

Carnation Powdered Milk

Sorry, no picture this time.

It has been years since I have seen powdered milk. Just as many years since I've had the pleasure of choking it down.

Perhaps one of the most vivid, tangible memory of my childhood is the big red Carnation box of Powdered Milk being pulled out onto the counter from the cupboard under the sink. With that memory comes a flood of feelings: sadness, despair, fear, anger and loneliness. Overwhelming feelings. I lived with evidence that we had nothing and lived in a home that denied it, daily. It was plain to see. Even for a child. A fear that goes to your bones. The belief that this is the way it will always be, the monotony; the desperation.

The knowledge of being poor.

We didn't have milk out of the fridge like my friends. We had milk from a box. I knew better than to ask questions, but I took it all in.

The desperation is heart wrenching especially with the advantage of hind sight.

Why am I feeling this?

I have always believed in giving. In giving back. In giving forward. I've given when I can afford it. I've given when I can't afford it. I am programmed to give to anyone who has less than I have even when I have "nothing".

When I was a kid I helped our church give to the "Boat People" who risked their lives to come to our country from their native Cambodia, Viet Nam and Laos. They were probably more scared of me than I was of them (and I was plenty scared) but I knew they had less than I did and was happy to go from home to home and drop off a cardboard box of shelf-stable groceries. My mother stayed in the car and I went into each home and dropped off a box full of supplies. I must have been around 11 or 12 years of age.

Not too long later, my friend in high school was closely related to those who founded and ran the Scott Mission in downtown Toronto. I took plenty of tours and spent plenty of hours volunteering, especially during Christmas. I saw all manner of people. Emotionally destitute. Intellectually destitute. Financially destitute. Culturally destitute. Language destitute.

In the years between then and now, and there are plenty, I have often given. Given plenty. Willingly. Deserved or not. When I could afford it and not. No matter what town: St. Thomas, Sackville, Buffalo, Calgary or Oakville. Oh, and sometimes on "internet" communities. I was always willing to give. Time, money, enthusiasm, whatever.

Today was the first day, in any tangible way, I have passed on the importance, the duty, the belief, the conviction, of giving.

Cole and his Ranger hockey team went to the Kerr Street Ministries. One of the mums on our team organized it and one of the families on our team is wholly involved in the mission. All of the boys who were not familiar with the set-up appeared to be happy but hesitant to be there. THIS was unfamiliar territory, indeed.

When I dropped Cole off, said a brief "hi" to the kids and parents, I was poised to make my exit and couldn't. I could not bring myself to leave. Especially after Cole raised his hand to do the meal blessing. Huh? He and another boy stood up. I stayed for the upcoming tour. I went downstairs and walked around. Greeted people. Engaged with volunteers. Listened to the facts and figures of the operation. I asked questions.

I was overwhelmed with a flood of memories.


Especially when I passed the boy who was re-packing powdered milk. That taste is still in my mouth and I didn't even have to mix any! He was carefully taking a bulk container of powdered milk and divvying it up into smaller portions in plastic bags, tied with a twist-tie, not one of the expensive "zip lock" bags.

I was relieved to head upstairs and say my goodbye's to Cole and his friends and parents. I'd be back to collect him at 6PM.

As it turns out, it was more practical for Louis to pick him up as he and Caden were on that side of town. At home I could tell that something had legitimately changed in my boy.

He reminded me of my "lecture" on Mama-math a couple of weeks back. His words: "when I'm not playing hockey, I want to serve at the mission."

I have tears in my eyes. Happy tears. Fearful tears.

Yes, Cole. You can spend as much time as you like at the Mission.


Buckeye Benita said...

What an inspiring story, Lee.

Char said...

OMG!! I have a lump in my throat and got very teary reading this post. You certainly are a very generous person - I have more than once been one of your "receivers" - so it does not suprise me that it is in your childrens hearts as well. Good for Cole! I am so proud of him. Give him a big hug from "Jonah's Momma". And an extra one for you ;)

MidniteScrapper said...

Oh, wow Lee! What a very sweet testimony. I was very sad to read about your childhood feelings/memories. We really are blessed and I am so glad when we can give. You have been an encouragement to me many times. Hugs for you and Cole!