Tales of the Unemployed – The Bishop’s Storehouse

20 01 2009

NOTE: This post is a little heavy on the depression and also a little judgmental. I say that not to pique your interest, but rather to warn you about how you might feel after you read this post. If you choose not to read, that’s just fine, but know that this post doesn’t really have a happy ending. One post in the future will have that happy ending, just not this one.

HERE BEGINS THE REAL POST.

It’s been two months now since I lost my job. Hard to believe, I know, but the shock of it has finally worn off, the exuberance of hope has dulled and the hard truth of reality has set in. Now, the hard truth just kind of presses on my spirit constantly, ready at any moment to simply press me into oblivion. As my dad calls it, I’ve reached “the slogging phase.” Slogging seems like an appropriate word.

Oh sure, this story will have a happy ending, where I summon the remainder of my strength and push back on the hard truth, just in time to save myself and everyone with me. But, just like in all good stories, the hero is trapped, with seemingly no way out and it appears that evil is about to triumph. That’s the stage that I’m in right now and I can tell you exactly where I hit rock bottom. That place is The Bishop’s Storehouse.

For those of you who don’t know (or who aren’t LDS) the Bishop’s Storehouse is a wonderful (and I mean that in the truest sense of the word) place where people who are down on their luck can come and get food, clothing, and other essentials, completely for free and with no obligation towards joining the church, listening to the missionaries or paying it back. It’s true Christian welfare at it’s finest and it’s available to all, regardless of religious affiliation or persuasion. It’s helped countless numbers of people and, in many ways, is the perfect example of what our Savior would do.

With all that said, I decided to take up the offer given to me by my Bishop to go to the storehouse and get whatever we needed. He wanted, genuinely, to help us and my pride, which has been beaten to a pulp, could not refuse a true offer of kindness from someone who wanted to help. So, the wheels were set in motion for our visit to the storehouse.

The way it works is that a member of the Relief Society (that’s the women’s organization of the church) comes to our house and helps fill out a food order. On the food order, there are a number of items available–everything from canned veggies to frozen meat–and you can have as much of it as you want. So, we ordered a ton of stuff, mostly canned and dry goods, to help us stretch the little money we do have left a little further. The order was approved and on Saturday, we went to the Bishop’s Storehouse.

Upon entering the Bishop’s storehouse, I was struck by how small, yet how efficient it was. It’s much like a grocery store, with about five isles of stuff, but there are no frivolous or high-end items. It’s just the essentials, and nothing else. Truth be told, that’s what it should be, but I was still amazed by the efficiency of the operation. And, at first, things were just fine. But as we made our way through the isles and I found that they didn’t have many of the things that we had put on our form, and even less variety, I started to bottom out a little. When we got to the fresh vegetables and found only onions and green peppers, my heart started to sink even more and when I saw that the frozen meat was a little dicey, I really started to freak out.

At that point, I looked up and took a good look at the people that were in the storehouse. This is when I lost it. (And here comes the judgmental part.) These people were not what you would call of high caliber. You could tell by their tattered clothes and general manner that these were people who were used to struggling. For them, a difficult lifestyle was all they had ever known, and I’m certain that many of their choices had only exacerbated their problems. For example, I remember one gentleman in a black hoodie with a lip ring who smelled of stale cigarettes and cheap beer looking directly at me. He had an odd expression on his face that seemed to betray the fact he was surprised to see someone like me there. We locked eyes for a moment and then he moved on, but at that point, I realized that, just like in the story, the wall was closing in and evil was about to triumph. So, I had a choice–I could give up and succumb to depression, or, as my facebook status says, I could try harder to spring hope from the prison of depression. I decided that I had to try the latter.

It’s Monday now, and I’ve tried to keep my spirits up over the last two days, and more specifically, I’ve tried hard to banish the thoughts of “woe is me” and “the world is out to get me” and, even worse “God is punishing me.” It’s not easy to banish these thoughts and I really wish it were as easy as casting a spell, or drawing a sword to slay a few enemies. But I think where the truth in those stories lie is in the fact that many of those demons and bad guys represent real demons in our own lives (forgive the cliche) and the reason we respond the stories (or the reason I do anyway) is because on some level, I believe I can conquer those demons. And even though everything seems bleak right now, I have no choice but to try. Besides, my mom keeps telling me that “life rewards effort” and unless I make that effort and try, of course evil will win.

Angela tells me all the time that what happened to me wasn’t my fault. No one could have seen it coming and sometimes bad things happen. The only thing we have control over is how we react. For me, I think I reacted badly and even a bit naively. Now, I’m going to try acting a little wiser and a little more positively. After all, the hero does have to win the day at some point.

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5 responses

21 01 2009
sarah

drew– love reading your blog– we are in a similar place– unfortunately dylan has work— we just wonder from week to week if he’s working for free– its so hard to accept help when yousee people who you know are worse off than you and know they need it more than you. we recently found an envelope of cash on our doorstep– it first caused contention– pride was hurt– then we both came to the realization that we have served our hearts out and paid our tithing and worked hard– we need to “let” the Lord bless us and we need to let others serve us.
You are also correct in realizing that it matters how we act in our current state– I told Dylan the other night– I’m not going to stop telling people about what we are going through, because I can still be an example of how to be happy despite what has happend to us. Thanks for being a great example to us. Hang in there our thoughts and prayers are with you :D

31 01 2009
Charayne

Wow, I had no idea that you lost your job. They have been talking a lot about that in our ward, because so many people are out of work right now. Do you guys have a ward employment specialist??? Good Luck and keep your spirits up, something is around the corner for you. Oh, and not to sound like the advice wagon, but things happen for a reason. We had to sell our house b/c of Tony’s brain surgery, and it was a blessing in disguise, because I was able to spend a little more time with my mom before she died. I’m sure the next chapter will have the hero pulling ahead. Good Luck and hang in there!

22 03 2009
Zuke

I know exactly how you feel! Mel and I had to make a few trips to the storehouse over the time I was unemployed. While the selection of things is usually pretty miserable, the people who work there were always amazing to us. “It says here you have three kids, right? Why aren’t you taking any ice cream? Here, have two! One of each flavor!”

What was really amazing, and I’m not sure you ever caught on, but if you read through most ward cookbooks (or even the cookbook you can pick up from the Storehouse itself) but they are filled with useful recipes. And nearly all those recipes require ingredients that are always stocked at the Bishop’s Storehouse.

If anything, our visits to the storehouse helped us learn to be more frugal when it came to preparing our family dinners. It was a hard lesson to learn!

14 06 2010
Herb

I came across your post looking for storehouse recipes. We’ve had to take advantage of the bishop’s storehouse last month and this month. What a humbling experience!

It tells me specifically in my patriarchal blessing that there will come a time in my life when I will need to accept help and service from others. That’s a big challenge for me, as I come from a proud family that doesn’t ask for help.

I also struggle with feelings of the “at least we’re not that bad off” and “this is my punishment” sort. I do good in the mornings, but by mid-afternoon I’m in that downward spiral, where unemployment just seems to be overwhelming and the thought of loosing our home is more than I can bear. I realize those feelings are a choice, though, and I try my best to choose the better option!

Thanks for your post.

11 03 2012
Larse

Hi Andrew,
I came across your blog and my heart goes out to you. My husband and I have been struggling for at least two years through furlows, and layoffs and have come very close to loosing our home too many times and we are now in a mountain of debt. My husband lost his second job and is no longer working overtime. It is exhausting because sometimes I feel like unemployment could be around the corner at any moment and the future is uncertain. We have been in the hole and have had to visit the bishop’s warehouse and it was a humbling experience. I thought my husband would be devestated by it, but his reaction was quite different, he was relieved- we had food in the house and could feed the kids. You see, he is a recent convert. He has been through tough times as a child, when his step mother would starve them by locking the refrigerator. He even had to steal food to feed his brother and sister, something that he still feels ashamed and angry about. Later in life, he found himself homeless with two young children under the age of two as a young father and had to live in his car with them for weeks and forego eating to feed them. So you can imagine, not having a basic necessity like food was absolutely terrifying for him and made him feel like such a failure. However, he felt extremely blessed that the church offered us help in our time of need. He never, ever received help from any church during a time of crisis, and was amazed that it was given freely with love. It actually made him feel that the Savior was looking out for him and that we would be ok. I hope feelings of comfort will come to you and your family soon, and that you will feel the Savior’s love for you as you move forward through this very rough time.
Even though financially things have not gotten better, I have changed the way I do things and no longer need to get help from the storehouse for food. I never thought I would be going from the Bishop’s storehouse to having a 3+ month supply of food but I have managed to do it. I learned how to coupon. I’ve gotten many necessities free and stocked up on them by using coupons. It is like paper money. We have a family of six and have gone from spending $250/mo + for grocieries down to around $100/mo or less, what is better is that I am getting three times as much food and personal care items and I do not run out of the basic necessities any more. I wish I had leaned how to do this sooner. I could have saved my family so much money and saved my husband a lot of stress. Look into it… you may be surprised how doing something like this can help you feel empowered in a time when you are down. It has really given my husband and I a different perspective on how we live and what we actually can accomplish with very little. Food for thought…. check out livingrichwithcoupons.com. Hang in there, you will be in my prayers.

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