By Tyler Weidig, Kids Summer Meals Program Supervisor
A young boy sat quietly at a table as he politely but quickly devoured a sandwich at a small community center in southeast Durham. It was lunchtime and he was out of school for the summer.
After he finished his meal, he quietly stood up from the table, threw away his trash, and left. Not an unusual thing to see at one of our Kids Summer Meals sites where children in the neighborhood can come, eat lunch, and leave when they’re ready.
Several other children also came and went, but after a short while I noticed the same boy approaching the front door. This time he wasn’t alone. He walked through the lunch line for the second time with his two sisters in tow. The three of them sat down at the table and ate sandwiches together. When they had finished they stood up from the table and left.
Then something surprising happened. The boy returned a third time, now with his older brother. They both sat down at the table as the young boy ate his third lunch of the day. When they finished, they stood up, threw away their trash, and left. By then lunchtime was over and all the children at the center went home.
As the Kids Summer Meals Program Supervisor at the Food Bank, I visit a lot of our partner sites. I see lots of children sitting at tables eating cereal in the morning or sandwiches at lunch. But this site visit gave me pause, and I still think about that young boy. I wonder how he learned of our summer meals site and why his brother and sisters didn’t want to come with him the first time. I think about how he must have walked back home two separate times, told his sisters and brother about the meal, and encouraged them to come. I wonder what he said to his older brother that convinced him to walk back with him on his third trip to the center. I think about the fact that this young boy and his three siblings likely don’t have enough food to eat at home, and that the youngest of them all was so hungry he ate three lunches that day.
When I think about that boy, I feel both sad and uplifted. It can be difficult to see so many children flock to our Kids Summer Meals sites, knowing that those meals are very likely their primary or only source of nutrition. But then I see this young boy, rather bravely eating lunch all by himself. I watch him make the trek back home two more times to get his siblings so that they could eat lunch, too. It’s true; there was extra food in it for him as well. But had he only thought of himself he could have simply asked for extra helpings at the site. Instead, he thought of his family and their well-being, and left the table to bring them back.
When providing a critical human service in the community, you often see heartbreaking scenes of poverty and struggle. But you also see amazing leaps of faith, great acts of kindness, and plain compassion for one another. And to see that bright light in a child on a hot summer day—That’s how I know what we do is so important, and that’s my reason for working hard to feed kids every day.