reverse robin-hood

Recently I stole took some food from a homeless shelter here in Grand Rapids. Not just a little, but at least four or five full bags.  Some homeless guys even offered me some bananas which I also accepted.

I was on my way to book club to discuss “The Memory Keepers Daughter” when I remembered it was Wednesday & that neither Dave nor I had picked up our share of veggies from our CSA (community supported agriculture) farm.  My friend Sarah was pulling out of off of our street when I realized this and started to exclaim “shizzle-shizzle-shizzle!” I really do try not to swear- having a toddler who repeats everything is great motivation to be mindful of what I mutter when I’m frustrated. I checked the dashboard clock-It was 6:20. Our pick-up is supposed to be from 4-6. grrrrr. After realizing Dave can’t pick them up because he’s watching two toddlers I angrily realize:

  1. We will have no fresh veggies for the week. (We committed to using what we had while we did the CSA and not buying more).
  2. Worse- our friends who spilt the share with us will have no fresh veggies for the week or will have to buy more. This seems worse than us not having any veggies.
  3. I will be incredibly late to book club which I’ve been looking forward to all day and this has now thrown me into a state that looked something like this:
I wasn't wearing a suit, I was just seething.
I wasn't wearing a suit, I was just seething.

I was looking forward to unwinding with friends during a pleasant evening but now all I could think about was getting our produce. Some of you remember that I REALLY hate wasting food. In this case, I knew that the farmers would donate our share to a local homeless shelter in Grand Rapids, but in this case it wasn’t food I was wasting but my money and the money of my friends who had also paid for the vegetables. So what would you have done?

Thankfully my friend Sarah agreed to drive me to the pick-up site to see if the farmers were still there. After searching for the new pick-up location where I hadn’t been to in a few weeks I see both of the farmers trucks parked on the street with crates of veggies (empty? half-full?) hoping I can still scrounge what’s left of our share. Just as I run up to the window of one of the trucks, the other pulls away down the street and our famer lady tells me “all the food is in the other truck, she’s dropping it off at God’s Kitchen shelter- you can still probably catch her.” I jump back in the car & Sarah & I head off towards where we think the red pickup truck is heading.

follow that truck!
follow that truck!

Sarah & I drive past the men and women milling around outside the shelters, keeping our eyes peeled for the red pick up truck. We wait outside the shelter that farmer girl said she’d be at. No luck. I ask a security guard about a veggie drop off. no luck. I run inside and ask the people inside about a veggie drop off (one of whom happens to be a former boss of mine & was trying to be chatty- I was too stressed and driven on my quest for kale to stop and talk). no luck. Sarah drives me around  the blocks a few times where the homeless shelters are. no red pick up truck. I’m getting angrier by the minute, embarrassed that Sarah is seeing me in such a state and annoyed that we’re late for what was supposed to be a relaxing evening.

As we’re driving around the block again, we spot the red pickup coming out of a gated parking lot. “There she is! Follow that truck” I yell as Sarah pulls to the curb & I jump out of the car and run over to catch farmer girl. “hey, I missed our share pick up- did you have anything left?” I pant as farmer girl eyes me like a crazy person. “It’s all in there” she tells me as she juts her thumb towards the open garage door. “take whatever you want.” I thank her and then jog to the open garage door where some guys are milling around. All the produce is in bags on the cart.

At this point I feel like a real tool because:

  1. I’m at a homeless shelter. Obviously these guys are worse off than me losing a few bucks on some squash and beans. Even though I’ve paid for what I’m taking it just feels greedy and wrong.

    Grand Rapids has many homeless shelters to provide meals, programs and housing for people on the street.
    Grand Rapids has many homeless shelters to provide meals, programs and housing for people on the street.
  2. I’m worried that they’re going to think I’m stealing from them. Or that they’ll think I’m a nutter for rifling through bags of turnips and potatoes.
  3. I hadn’t brought any bags with me so I had to ask farmer girl who was kind enough to give me some.
  4. I’ve inconvenienced Sarah & will now have to explain to my bookclub why we were so late.

But the part where I felt like the biggest tool was when the homeless guys were so generous to me. They kept telling me “take it all! take as much as you want! we get tons of this stuff all the time!” waving their hands over the whole cart of produce. I kept explaining why I was there & that I had missed our farm pick-up which just sounded lame & like I was some kind of vegetable addict jonesing for my next fix of beets. It was so humbling to have people who have little to nothing offering me even what few things they had. I kept trying to tell them “no, no, I’m just going to take what I paid for. This stuff is really good, I want you guys to enjoy it. Which made me feel like even more of a tool because if I really felt that way I would have just told Sarah to drive straight to bookclub instead of making her drive me on a wild eggplant chase.

As I packed up the bags of produce I introduced myself to a guy named Doug who lived there and we chatted about what kinds of produce we enjoyed and how nice it is to live in Michigan where so much food grows. As I finished I thanked him & the other guys who had come into the garage to see me take bagfuls of their food. I trotted back to the car with the bags dangling from my arms and as I climbed in to her car Sarah, looking slightly frantic asked me “where did you go? I grabbed a tissue to blow my nose and you were gone! I thought you got in the truck!” Then I felt like even more of a tool because I had scared my nice friend who thought I was taking rash measures to get my veggies than is normal.

Later, when I got home after an enjoyable evening at bookclub and brought in our bags of produce I told Dave my reverse robin-hood story. “Wow, that’s pretty tenacious. I’m not sure I would have gone through all that just to get our veggies.” Dave grinned as he loaded the carrots into our crisper drawers in our fridge. Thank the Lord I had cooled down by then because if not for the Holy Spirit acting like muzzle on my mouth, I think I would have gone off on Dave and whacked him over the head with a leek.

So, what kind of stuff motivates you towards crazy tenacity? Saving money? Food? Getting exercise? Spending time with someone you love or your family? Hot cheetos? What would you have done in this situation? Let it go? Take the veggies?


  • Teresa

    Hi Jessica! Love your blog…and this post! This is totally something my husband would do…I don’t know that I would go that far for the veggies…maybe knowing that other people were counting on me would push me that far, but I don’t know!

    A backpacking trip or skiing or something like that could motivate me toward crazy tenacity! I love a good adventure!

  • Susie VG

    Jess, you had me laughing out loud with this one! You had to get those veggies, especially for your CSA sharing friend. I would have done the same thing! I have many similar focused neurotic episodes, too.

    Miss you!

  • serinat

    wow, jess, you’ve got me on that one. you know how devoted i am to my organic veggies, esp. when i’ve paid good money for a csa, but i’m not sure i would have chased farmer girl that far! very tenacious. and hilarious.

    (maybe i would have, though. it would depend on my mood…)

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