I am writing in response to the questions and given answers concerning food banks in the Wednesday, July 10th edition of the Tomahawk. I understand that my story concerns a now large city, though before Hurricane Katrina, Baton Rouge, Louisiana had a population of under 300,000, and had a population of less than 50,000 even back in the 1980s. I attended a beautiful and historic (built in the 1820s) Downtown Church in Baton Rouge, and as part of our Wednesday morning Bible Study class, we helped with the weekly food bank that our church provided to those in need. After our Bible-study ended at 7:30am, we would go bag and hand out groceries for about 45 minutes, as many of us had to run off to work. We loved providing this service as it allowed us to follow the teachings and instructions of Jesus and feed the hungry.
As time and the years progressed, the crowds became larger and more difficult to control- we couldnt even get the crowd to be silent for a one minute prayer and blessing of the food on most Wednesdays! Then it really started to change, as we would see people boldly standing in the parking lot of the church trading their grocery bags of food for cash, while also witnessing those who had just received this donated food placing their bags of groceries in brand-new Cadillacs, Lincoln Town Cars, or expensive SUVs. Though these changes truly broke our hearts and took the joy out of wanting to help those that truly needed help, we felt that it wasnt our place to judge the situation, but instead to continue to do as the Bible instructed.
After moving from Baton Rouge here to Mountain City in 2001, I started to see the same type of behaviors where some that could truly go to work and supply food for their families themselves, make the choice instead to allow others to work for and then give them food, housing, clothing, cell phones, etc. I truly struggled for years with wanting to do what is right (as per Biblical instruction), and seeing with my own eyes the abuse that has occurred by so many- and theres the rub; how do you sort out those who are truly in need from those who would prefer to continue being takers?
I dont have a definitive answer to this question, but I do know that the Lord gave us a brain, and he prefers that we use it; so when we see the same people year after year, we should prayerfully consider this. At what point do we stop allowing takers and users to take advantage of, and yes, abuse the good-hearted and convicted people who are so often taken advantage of? Anyone with a heart wants to ensure that no child, older adult or anyone should be hungry, and I am sure that most of us have gone through periods in our life where we struggled terribly with making ends meet and keeping food on the table. So how do we ensure that those who need some temporary help are helped?
Though this is a question that must be answered personally, the enabling efforts of our government [with our hard-earned paid taxes] has allowed for exponential growth in the entitlement society, and has also taken away from churches the responsibility of doing what they were called to do – to be responsible for feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, the orphans, the widows and the elderly. With government entitlements being so easy to get and abuse, it is no wonder that so many fall into the trap of provided freebies; and with no incentive to get back to being personally responsible, there is little hope that the situation will change anytime soon!
Even with all this being said, it is imperative that food banks continue to provide food in an attempt to ensure that those who might otherwise be hungry are fed.