Dancing at the Food Pantry

Written by Rotaract Oshkosh member Candice Lane.

We were sitting at the kitchen table arguing about the meaning of success. Exasperated he exclaimed, “It’s a family! A spouse, kids, a home we can afford! A job in an unstable economy—it’s all we need! Maybe it’s about time you realize what success really means.”

I just shook my head. He didn’t understand.

It had been a discouraging week. Copy after copy, one phone call after another, nonstop emails. I was frazzled. All I could see from the outside looking in was an overworked young professional who, five years ago thought she’d be further ahead than she felt as a glorified assistant struggling to find meaning in futile tasks. Where was “success” in that?

Frustrated that he couldn’t understand the stars in my eyes for a “bigger” future, I left for my monthly spot at the food pantry. I began work right away: unloading milk cartons, setting collections of sodas, shelving the usual canned foods. The conversation had left me angry so I kept my head down and stayed busy.

When I did look up, it occurred to me that no one appeared “down” on their luck or unhappy about the circumstances that brought them to the pantry. I saw an older couple, the man helping his wife through the aisle; a mother with two smiling children, a younger couple happily planning their meal out loud.

For me, it was a brief glimpse into a smaller, more meaningful kind of success.

There were signs of hard times in some of the people, but those things didn’t matter. Wherever I went and whoever I talked to, that weight seemed to disappear. It was just a family, a couple, a mom, a single guy… all of whom were thankful for the help from the pantry. They had no choice other than to accept the cards being dealt to them, but they did have a choice about how to accept them. The people I saw were overwhelmingly grateful and, despite it all, they still smiled.

There are different versions of success, to be sure: A mansion in the Hollywood hills, a ranch of roaming horses in the Rockies, or finally liquidating that stack of student loans. But I think there is a more simple definition of success, too. Instead of fighting the day-to-day as so many people do, what about thinking of success as the ability to appreciate each day… and dance with it instead.

Me? I’m going to dance.

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