Karen came to Project SHARE after leaving a volatile marriage and becoming a single mom. Her past standard of living was comfortable so she had never considered coming to a food bank. Karen’s boys love hockey and she could no longer afford the registration. She heard about JumpStart, a recreation funding program administered through Project SHARE, swallowed her pride and came for an application. The client support worker she met with encouraged her to take food as well, and she reports the decision to accept food “went against everything she believed in”. She had always helped others and never dreamed she would be in a position where she would have to ask for help herself. She realized she would have to swallow her pride and accept help from Project SHARE, vowing that someday she would be in a position to give back.
The third or fourth time Karen came to Project SHARE she experienced a transformation. Karen was sitting beside a “big, burly, tattooed biker” in a waiting room packed with diverse people who all seemed to be experiencing the same emotion – shame. Heads were bowed, shoulders slumped and no one was smiling, except one tiny young pregnant woman with bright golden blonde hair. Karen reports she was sitting tall in her chair, beaming with joy and smiling at people around the room. Everyone avoided eye contact. “Isn’t this wonderful?” the pregnant woman exclaimed while Karen prayed she wouldn’t focus on her. “Really, isn’t this great. Aren’t we lucky?” she squealed again but no one would look at her. Her eyes settled on the huge tattooed man right beside Karen. “I love your tattoos!” she screamed with delight. Two unique names were scrolled on his arm in ink. The tiny little pregnant woman asked him directly, “Who are those people?” The man proceeded to tell her in a quiet and gentle voice, “They are my two boys. I don’t see them.” Everyone sat a bit straighter, heads raised and as people listened intently to his sad story of heartache and loss, and people began to look at each other and engage.
When he finished talking about his boys and his loss he asked her, “What are you going to name your baby?” “Gertrude!” she screamed in delight. “Isn’t that a beautiful name? I love that name – it’s so strong.” He softly responded, “Yes, that’s a good name.” People waiting for food locked eyes and smiled at one another.
Karen was eventually called into the food room. She has never seen either the biker or pregnant woman again but remembers them every time she sits in the waiting room at Project SHARE. Karen remembers how lucky she is to have a place to go for help, and sits tall; no longer shameful. She remembers the blonde sprite saying, “We’re all in this together. Aren’t we lucky?” Karen has a strong faith and sometimes wonders if this little pregnant girl could have been an angel.
Karen doesn’t mind coming in for food anymore. She is grateful and knows that her situation is temporary. Karen is returning to school in a few months to study social work. She plans to become a life coach so she can help others who are experiencing hard times and encourage them to make good choices and remain positive. She feels lucky. She feels that every person who sat in the waiting room and listened to the story of the tattoos and felt the gratitude of the petite blonde girl left that day with a “little piece of joy” that Karen will hold in her heart forever.