God Will Provide
By Tammy Hopson
The line at the food bank was long and it was always cold outside. Maybe because the foodbank was only open on Wednesday mornings. Even when my Mom and I with my baby sister would arrive early to get a good place in line, it was never early enough.
The long line of people wrapped around the little white church in the middle of town. The wait was so long. But eventually, we made it up to the door of the little side building. I remember the little old lady who seemed just as grumpy as I was to be there on that day. Every week it was the same process. She asked our name and searched the little green box for the index card showing who we were, our family size, and our monthly income. Then she abruptly asked, “How many in your household?” Time stopped while she squinted her eyes and looked us up and down as if she wondered if we were telling the truth. Would we have lied if we thought we could get away with it? At times I think we would have to get one more loaf of bread or more canned food.
Next, we were given 3 paper bags, which were considered suitable to hold all that we needed until they opened again the following week. Slowly, we made our way through the line as each volunteer asked us again about our family size and placed the week’s donations in our grocery bags. I can still see the plastic baggies partially filled with dry beans, rice, flour, and split peas. Then the cans came. A few cans of this and a few cans of that. Sometimes soup, sometimes green beans or peas, and always tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes. Then there were the odd things like garbanzo beans or canned mackerel. I remember hoping and praying for things like Spagettios, ravioli, or even chili with beans. Sometimes there were special things like day-old pastries or stale loaves of French bread. And then a few times a year we received big blocks of cheese and butter.
Since my mother was not a cook she did not know what to do with so many of these foods. I can still see our cupboards full of bags of beans and rice and other dry goods because my mother didn’t know how to cook them and she never learned. Out of necessity, I taught myself to cook rice without burning or overflowing the pan. Soon I was adding butter and tomato sauce. This became a normal meal for me during those years. After I had my own children to feed I learned what I could do with those bags of pintos, black-eyed peas, and split peas, but it took me a while.
I raised a lot of kids on a very small budget and I learned how to put big pots of things together. Coming to the South also helped me to learn how to add ham hocks and pork to things to flavor them. I learned to make bread and biscuits from scratch because homemade things are cheaper and feed more hungry mouths. I studied how to grow a garden and then preserve it for my large family. I didn’t have the privilege of learning from a grandparent or parent or anyone else. As I learned I had to improvise when I could not afford the ingredients. There were not always eggs in my fridge for baking or enough milk to use in gravies or sauces or just for drinking.
But God used that time in my life for a purpose. Today I can say I have plenty of those things and I have the knowledge of how to put those things together and create something good to eat. But I had to go through the “foodbank line” first. I went through the hardship of need and hunger. I know what it’s like to worry over your next meal or the empty bellies of your babies. As I look back on my past those days are still very real to me.
Just the other day I came home with an armload of fresh food. I unpacked it all and laid it out on the counter. As I looked at my kitchen filled with groceries the memory of those hard years came rushing back and I had to stop and thank God again for all He has brought me through.
Psalm 22:26 says ” The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the Lord.”
I know that God will always provide for me and for that I will continue to praise Him.
Tammy Hopson has been a Mitchell County resident since 1992 and lives in Red Hill with her family. She is a mother of six children and grandmother of 14. She has been a member of Hoyle Memorial Christian Fellowship in Lawndale, NC since 1992 and helps lead The HMCF Youth Group.
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