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June 2, 2021 - Meatloaf and a Side of Respect

My 6th grade daughter had a school assignment to discuss the lyrics from a 1930’s song “Money is King” by Neville Marcano. It is an old calypso style song, which sings about how people treat dogs better than poor people and that a poor person will be shun away and not given any food, but the dog will be shown compassion and given food and shelter. In my daughter’s response to her teacher, she explained the lyrics, ‘…people treat a dog better than poor people because they feel people should be able to work and take care of themselves, whereas the dog is incapable to work (or hunt) in our world.’ She went on to hedge on her statement adding, “…but we do not know the circumstances as to why these people are poor.” My daughter is often distracted when doing her school work, but she is like a laser once her focus is pointing to something that interests her, her perception and insight are scary!

As we discussed her response it made me think about Feed Thy Neighbor’s (“FTN’s”) mission that “no one should go to bed hungry.” Tony Mansolillo started feeding people from his home kitchen due to Covid19 shutdowns in April 2020; he likes to justify feeding everyone from children to people with addictions by saying, “God don’t make junk!” His expression means that we are all special and important despite our circumstances. You must understand, Tony is 76 years old, a disabled veteran from the Vietnam war, his back gives him pain each day, but what sustains and feeds his soul each day is knowing that hungry people are going to be fed! As for me, I started helping Tony not to help feed people, but because my friend saw something he was passionate about and he needed help. In the end his passion and the extent of the hidden need out there changed my perspective.

Tony has gotten to know, by name, a great number of these people in need over the last year. Initially Tony started feeding people due to Covid19 layoffs, and elderly people “trapped” in their home afraid to go shopping, all circumstances beyond their control. Over the last year, Feed Thy Neighbor learned something when we were out “in the weeds” serving meals that there were many families in need with children, even homeless families and, of course, homeless adults. This need goes beyond the Covid19 that jump started Tony in the beginning. Feed Thy Neighbor does not care why these people are in the position they are in, likely the combination of poor decisions and ‘circumstances out of their control.’ Feed Thy Neighbor only cares if they are hungry so we can provide them a good home cooked (literally) meal. What I have come to learn in volunteering to distribute meals, is that we give another essential nutrient, respect.

Recently, Tony was excited; he told me about a man he met during a food distribution the day before. He had met and given meals to this man regularly over the last year, however, he had not seen the man for a few months. When distributing meals we get to know many regulars, but some people come and go, it is a rough life, and sometimes ‘not seeing’ people is not for the better. This man met up with Tony that day and was himself excited to tell Tony that he had gone to rehab, and cleaned himself up and when he starts working soon he is going to contribute to Feed Thy Neighbor! Tony was very happy for him!

Understand it is not in Feed Thy Neighbor’s mission statement to convince people to go to rehab, to find religion, or to call their mother on Mother’s Day, etc , but as a volunteer you cannot help but to feel good when people make the right decisions for themselves. In this case the man told Tony that one of the reasons he changed was because Tony not only gave him a meal every day, he also talked to him with respect, like a person and not a societal outcast. Sometimes, when we humble ourselves and help others, we remember our common humanity and the simplest things like: food, kindness and respect are our best gifts.

R. Sanchez

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