Winter Solstice / Christmas at the Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry

Winter Solstice

by Laura K. Secor

Hello my friends.  For two more days, the sun is getting weaker by the minute.  Imagine the fear in earlier times, the hope that December 21 would mark that turning point, the desperate doubt that perhaps this time, winter might be endless.  From our cozy perch of scientific certainty, it’s hard to realize that once upon a time, people didn’t have absolute knowledge that the seasons would turn, only hope and prayer.  This poem shows the sheer relief and gratitude they felt as the sun began to strengthen again.

Hail, lovely sun! Praise you for rising!
Praise you for dawning! Yesterday
we shivered in darkness while
you were trapped in the mountains.
Now you rise light as a silver bird.
Always rise like this, goddess,
always come back to us like this,
bringing us health and safety,
bringing the game to our arrows,
the fish to our fishhooks.  Journey
now in peace, go around the earth
in safety, travel in joy, O goddess!

— Finnish Kalevala

The story of the sun goddess who retreats from us during the winter, only to return again after the solstice passes, appears in many cultures.  In Finland, the sun was stolen from her place in the sky by the witch of winter, fierce Louhi. She in turn had to be tricked by a heroic smith and his companion, a great poet, into giving the sun maiden up so that the world could be saved from darkness and cold.

When the sun rose again after her captivity, the poet Vainomenen sang the above song to her.  It captures the relief we all feel as we begin to see the light increase after the solstice, however small the increments at the beginning.  Within a month, the growth in light will be noticable. For now, it is enough to know we are on our way out of the darkness.

— From the Goddess Companion by Patricia Monaghan

Christmas at the Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry

by Dianne Mann, Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry Coordinator

Charles Dickens wrote in The Tale of Two Cities that “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I’ve been thinking of that as I’ve pondered what to say about the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry over the past month. For me, it has been the worst of times and the best of times

Several weeks ago, I gave emergency food to a woman that I will never forget. She had recently lost her job and was a cancer survivor. The previous day she had only white rice to eat. While some might say that white rice is food and nutritious, a steady diet of it won’t get you very far. Indeed, it’s little better than what you might get in a famine. As I provided her food, she was singing spirituals and praising God for helping her out of a difficult situation. I finally had to tell her if she didn’t quit singing that I was going to cry. But, you guys know me. I cry a lot (especially during the worst of times.)

Last week Thursday was one of the best of times! Each year, I have the opportunity to speak about our Pantry on the WSRS 96.1 Worcester County Food Bank annual food drive. I usually talk about the Pantry, how many people we serve, sometimes about emergencies, etc. Last week was different.   I brought along one of the seniors who use the Pantry. She is so grateful that we exist and has no trouble telling people about her experience here. She made an instant bond with both Greg and Suzanne. (In fact, I think Suzanne and she are bound to be friends!) Her experience living with hunger was instrumental in explaining to people listening about how difficult it can be – especially for a senior. In fact, it was the first time the food drive ever had a person who uses a pantry speak on air about it. Here she is making friends with Suzanne who had nearly the same coat!

More good times occurred on Friday when the group of us went to the Food Bank to get 4,000 pounds of food to distribute for December. It’s always fun trying to estimate what to get. And, I appreciate all of the folks who have helped with this task over time. Here’s a picture of us mugging for the camera. See how we’re smiling! It’s like lifting all those boxes was no problem at all.

Food Pantry volunteers pose for a selfie

Continuing into Friday evening, a lively group of volunteers managed to set up all that food in record time. Thank you one and all.

Then came Saturday morning wherein our steadfast group of volunteers stood ready to make the Holidays bright for our folks! In addition to the food, there were gift cards for something special at the grocery, hats, gloves and socks to keep our folks warm and, a special shout out to Lydia Stephen, over 50 beanie babies with candy canes attached! I saw two young boys playing with them in the hallway. I guess Santa came early! Hugs were passed around, cheerful greetings were expressed and there was a great spirit in Fellowship Hall. In case you are a numbers person, we served 75 families that day. It was the best of times!

It truly was the worst of times and the best of times overall.

Dickens wrote many other things. At my Memorial Service, may I hope the Choir will sing “Food Glorious Food” from the musical Oliver Twist. And, at this time of the year, I would be remiss if I did not add this:

“God Bless Us Everyone”