She spoke barely any English, and when she did it was in a quiet, soft voice. Like how you’d speak if you’re unsure of correct pronunciation. She was a young woman, dressed in a black floor-length, flowing dress with a matching hijab. I assumed she was married, with children. You see, the amount of food placed into the Unemployed Help Centre food bank’s grocery cart was dependent on the number of people to be fed in a household. And, her cart held a fair bit of groceries: cans of baked beans, pasta, eggs, milk, cookies, ground beef, and loaves of frozen bread.
She was all done “shopping” but the next two people could not be assisted with obtaining their groceries yet. At this food bank, recipients were personally escorted along the two short aisles and informed the quantity of each food they could receive. For example, three canned goods, choice of two boxes of granola or cereal, two choices of pasta.
There seemed to be a problem.
You see, I was nearby, carting a 20 pound box of lentils, barley, and an assortment of beans donated by my sister. Often, these donated boxes go to the homeless shelter where I volunteer. But, sometimes, the goods find their way here. Many new Canadians come to UHC as well as a cross-section of all ages and races of Canadians. But, it’s the new Canadians who prefer to cook “from scratch”. Many have never opened a can of beans in their lives. So, I know the donated beans, etc will be put to good use. Or that the UHC will use the items in their cooking classes to make chili or soups. And, the huge pots of soup are often donated to the homeless shelter. The beans, barley and lentils make their way to the shelter after all!
I was barely within earshot but could hear people in line complaining about the lady. Something along the lines of “ she should just take the chicken and be grateful” would be a polite interpretation of one woman’s words. A comment was made asking if God would rather her starve than feed her family the wrong chicken?
“Ali, come over here please!”
The very nice manager of the UHC, Ali, was summoned. He spoke to the woman in Arabic.
I wish I could tell you if she took the chicken or not. I didn’t pay close enough attention to learn if the poultry was Halal or not.
I muttered a comment myself,”You don’t understand. She can’t go against her religion. We don’t know what it’s like for her at home. She might get into trouble…”
I got to thinking about this later. The woman was definitely in need of food. And, I felt a profound respect for her, to be able to decline much needed food because of her beliefs. Would I have faith enough if in her shoes? Would you? As Christians, we often say, “The Lord will provide.” But, if the food wasn’t “kosher” or in this case, Halal, could one refuse it and stay strong in the belief that God would provide? That’s what I call a strong faith.