The Shop on Main Floor

| May 4, 2009

The woman who runs the small market downstairs lost her lease. They gave her 25 days notice; last Friday was the 25th. Ironically, it was May Day, a day in which many gathered to celebrate immigrant workers & downtrodden laborers such as her.

I don’t know for a fact that this woman is an immigrant (although she spoke with a heavy accent & prepared many Eastern European dishes of the day). I don’t know where she lives, where she’ll go, or what she’ll do. I don’t even know her name. I know so little about her, having visited the market only a handful of times in the past two years. And yet I still feel very sad.

Part of it is outrage. “They only gave her 25 days notice? They’re keeping the refrigeration units she paid for? Is that legal?” But I know even less about tenant’s rights & her lease than I know about her.

But mostly, it’s a guilty conscience. I found out about the closure the day before, on our VP’s Twitter, of all places. At that point, what could I do? A purchase might liquidate her inventory & help her out in the short term, but then what? I couldn’t save her business; this isn’t some ’80s movie with a benefit concert to save the teen center.

It reminded me of my old neighborhood in North Hollywood, home to families so poor they would pick through garbage & recycling just to make ends meet. Everything looked in place; nobody cried “I need help.” But every Monday night, I awoke to the neighbors clanging in the shadows, making their rounds through the late hours of the night. But I was afraid to look, just as I was afraid to go downstairs on Friday. I didn’t want to look someone in the eye, having “known” them for months, without knowing of their problems or knowing how to save the day.

But then I remember all the days I do save, and all the people I do help. Not personally (although I am looking forward to our volunteer day at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank), but as part of the combined efforts of our grantees, our donors, our advocates & our legislators. It gives me confidence that, if we continue to work together, we truly can stop hunger. United, we can overcome our individual fears and help everyone – our neighbors, our strangers, and the women who run the markets downstairs.

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