Cotton Dixon, 60 years old after a lifetime of work, came to the Mount Prospect Baptist Church on Saturday where the food pantry gives away food every Saturday whether it is an election year or not. There is food whether politicians are gathering just two dozen miles away in Charlotte for the Democrats, or whether Republicans had a convention in Florida.
Dixon was 53rd in line at a place where nobody mentioned politicians, or the promises made to the broke and broken, the people whom politicians of both parties claim to care for.
“Election year, prices are supposed to be down,” Dixon said. “Gas is up. Food? Wonder if any of them knows what eggs and bread cost? They don’t know. But we know.”
Dixon received eggs and bread and more at this place filled with volunteers, where all the food comes from donations of church members. Each church ministry takes a month of Saturdays: This month was the deaconesses. They are the tough and tender, mainly older ladies who have worked forever and still do, yet find time for others always.
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The walls in a small auxiliary building are fronted by shelves crammed with canned goods, fresh vegetables, and even the smallest of things such as baggies filled with sugar.
“The whole idea, the only goal, is to help people,” said Glorias Robinson, the lead organizer of the food pantry that serves as many as a hundred people each Saturday. Nobody in line is asked their political affiliation, or anything else. They are just offered help.
“And I sure need it today,” said Charles Hemphill, 53, as he received the food that will help him get through a week.
People started lining up before 8 a.m. for the 10 a.m. opening of the doors. Inside, anyone who wants to sit on a folding chair, in a circle where prayers are offered, ministering is offered, can sit.
Many sat. They held prayer books and were told that they were loved and that they mattered.
A pair of ladies, who were at least senior citizens, and said they worked as “domestics” all their lives, quietly accepted food. They stood there with heads held high and they looked like royalty and at the end of their lives there is not enough money for food because “domestics” worked off the books mostly and Social Security is so tiny when you worked for cash for decades.
“Domestic” is a polite way of saying these ladies cleaned the homes and cooked the food and helped raise the kids of the moneyed people who come from Republican and Democratic parties and attend conventions and talk about America for hours as if it is some kind of anthropology term paper.
At Mount Prospect, America is not a speech or a college course. It is a hug and a bag of food and a promise kept. America is an offer of whatever is available, from food to encouragement.
“If we can feed the spirit that is a bonus,” said Wendi Carter, another volunteer. “It is simple. Serve people. Give.”
Volunteers Macie Alexander and Yvonne Johnson and several others, men and women from the church, shepherded people through, helping each one.
“We try to reach out to those who need help,” said volunteer Cindy Ferguson.
Last week the Republicans told America how much they care, and they did so from a grand hall where only those who were allowed in by invitation cheered.
This week in Charlotte, close enough to see the skyline from the roof of the Mount Prospect church, the Democrats will claim that they care. Only the select few thousand will be allowed into these events, and the food will be catered and sumptuous. Silver will shine.
Celebrities will arrive by private planes to talk of hunger, poverty and how hard it is to pay the light bill for the working class.
The broke and broken of Charlotte and its region will not be allowed within miles of the arena and football stadium where all these big shots will make speeches about tax policy and so many high-minded ideas that are supposedly vital to people who live in this country. Anybody who takes care of kids, or drives a bus, or fixes a truck, will be told they have to stay away, because it is a political party and parties have invitations and they with dirty hands from work and bagging donated sweet potatoes sure do not have any invitation.
Cindy Ferguson and Macie Alexander and Yvonne Johnson and Wendi Carter and other volunteers from this food pantry will not be invited to the convention for any lecture about what it is to be an American, and what people owe America, and what America owes its people. Glorias Robinson will not be there, either.
As President Obama and others talk about service, after a big meal delivered by wait staff wearing a tuxedo, Robinson will drive her car to four different stores to stretch the donated money given Sunday to the food pantry.
Robinson will load up and bring it all back and set it up again, to be given away to so many people.
Politicians will talk about service this week and make promises, too. Glorias Robinson and her volunteers will make no speeches. They will make no promises.
Glorias Robinson will stand there, tall and smiling, and she will unlock the food pantry again.
“I doubt there will be any politicians here,” Robinson said. “But we will be here.”
Robinson will wait for guys such as Cotton Dixon to arrive, lean and hard from a lifetime of work, and the ladies who changed the diapers of the political classes. She will hand out enough for all to try and make it through another week in the richest country in the history of the world.